New federal law promotes boater safety on Lake Tahoe

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 10:32 PM PDT
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Glenbrook, Nev. (KOLO) - National Boating Safety Week is May 22-28, 2021, and heading into the warm holiday weekend, Nevada officials want you to be prepared when you’re out on the water. A new federal law will help those on board, especially the driver, free from a potentially deadly accident.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer.

“We expect this to be a very, very busy boating season.”

Aaron Meier, Boating Education Coordinator, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW)

According to the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), more than 41,000 boats are registered in the Silver State, with hundreds of thousands riding on Lake Tahoe each year.

“Especially on a lake like this, boating is one of the best things you can do,” Aaron Meier, Boating Education Coordinator with NDOW said.

Last month, a new federal law went into effect that requires boat operators to wear an engine cut-off switch (ECOS) when boating on federal waters, like Lake Tahoe or Lake Mead. The law is not much of a change for Nevada boaters, however, as the state has mandated the use of the device since 2007.

Meier added, “Everybody on your boat will be safer, you’ll be safer, the other boats will be safer.”

It’s designed to shut off the boat’s motor if the operator is accidentally ejected overboard.

“If you don’t have that engine cut-off device, your boat is still running,” Meier said, “The pressure is going to make the engine go one way or the other and when that motor turns, it’s going to start to do what we refer to as the circle of death; it’s going to come back around and spin around and often runs over the operator or whoever else got tossed into the water.”

If you’re stopped by NDOW or water patrol and not wearing the device, you’ll be given a citation.

Meier added, “If your boat is built before a certain time and it’s not equipped with that, you’re not legally obligated to get it fixed. From this point on, every boat will be equipped with that cut-off device.”

Situations in which an ECOS link would not be required include docking, launching, and loading on a trailer, trolling, and operating in no-wake zones.

Currently, Alabama, Illinois, Arkansas, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Texas are the only other states to already have the cutoff switch as a law for state water bodies.

Other key ingredients for staying safe on the water include always wearing a life jacket and never drinking and boating.

“We want you out on the water but we want you doing it the right way so that everybody can come back off the water and my game wardens don’t have to look for you in the water.”

Aaron Meier, Boating Education Coordinator, Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW)

Whether you take to the lake from Incline Village or South Lake Tahoe, California, this law still applies.

Meier also says boating education classes are essential to recreating properly. For more information, click here.

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