Every September 1st in Texas, new laws go into effect.  Game wardens with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be out in force patrolling the waterways over the Labor Day holiday helping to educate folks about Kali's Law, the new mandatory ignition kill switch requirement for boat operators.

Kali's Law was established in response to the fatality of Kali Gorzell, a 16-year-old girl who was struck and killed by a boat propeller near Aransas Pass in 2012.  An ignition safety kill switch shuts off the boat motor automatically if the operator is thrown from the helm. The law requires operators of boats less that 26 feet in length that are equipped with an ignition safety kill switch to use it whenever the vessel is moving at greater than headway speed, which is defined as slow, idle speed, or speed only fast enough to maintain steerage on course.

The new law does not require the retrofitting of older vessels that are not equipped with a kill switch.  It does not permit the removal of a kill switch device that was originally installed on the vessel.  Wireless kill switch devices are permitted for those with concerns about the lanyard style devices.

Another main concern during holiday weekends is Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) – or operating a vessel with a blood alcohol level over 0.08 percent – which doubles the risk of being killed in a boating accident. BWI is strictly enforced and carries penalties similar to driving while intoxicated penalties, including possible driver’s license suspension.

Basic boating safety precautions like avoiding alcohol and wearing a lifejacket also extend to paddlecraft. Paddlers can find a free online safety course on the TPWD website, and for larger vessels, anyone born on or after Sept. 1, 1993, must complete a boater education course to operate a personal watercraft or a boat with a 15 horsepower rating or more. Boater education courses are regularly offered in many locations around the state, or boaters can find a selection of online boater courses that can be taken anytime.

For more boating safety tips and information, visit the TPWD Water Safety page online or visit the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety page online.