Avoiding Propeller Strike

According to US Coast Guard statistics, propeller incidents account for four percent of all boating deaths in the country. Additionally, it is estimated that propeller-related injuries are increasing faster than ever before. Because of the speed and torque, propeller strikes have the potential to kill.

 As the propeller operates below the water line, it is not readily visible to the operator, passengers, and swimmers. Boaters should take precautions to avoid motor or propeller strikes and make sure boat engines are turned off anytime people are in proximity of the propeller, such as when retrieving towed watersport participants, swimmers, or persons overboard. Use a ladder or re-boarding system at a safe distance from the propeller.

Devices have been developed to reduce the possibility of “propeller strikes.” These include:

  • Propeller guards (either fully or partially enclosing the propeller)
  • Sensors worn by individuals that electronically shut down the engine and sound alarms if they cross the boundary
  • Engine interlocks that automatically shut off the engine if certain conditions are met.

It is important for the boat operator to wear an engine cut-off device that will stop a powerboat if they are unexpectedly separated from the helm while underway. Stopping a boat is critical if the operator is ejected and prevents the “circle of death.” The “circle of death” occurs when a boat continually circles around out of control, potentially striking people in the water.



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