21

In this related question, I asserted that it was illegal to be in neutral gear while stopped at a red light. The first comment to that question challenged me to quote chapter and verse.

Astonishingly, I may have been taken in by popular rumor. There are a lot of assertions that this is illegal in various places, a lot of questions indicating driving instructors are teaching that it is so, and a lot of recommendations for or against actually doing it for a number of reasons. However, there are also assertions that for a manual transmission, you must put it into neutral as part of coming to a "complete stop" (neutral gear, along with applying the handbrake, seems to be required in the UK).

Where the confusion may seem to come from is that it is illegal in most jurisdictions to coast while in neutral; you may only shift to neutral while moving if you are transitioning between gears. Therefore, the practice of shifting into neutral when approaching a stoplight is prohibited by many states' driving laws. It's also illegal, in some more mountainous U.S. States such as Minnesota, to leave a car unattended without the brake set and the wheels turned to the curb (Minn. Statutes 169.36), which has also been misconstrued to mean that the transmission must be in gear (to provide further rolling resistance).

So the question to be answered is, does any law currently on the books of any U.S. State or territory, or any local jurisdiction thereof, prohibit shifting into neutral while stopped on a roadway, in a situation other than while legally parking?

  • in Belgium (article 8.6) it is forbidden to rev the engine repeatedly in neutral, and you can't leave the engine running in neutral except when needed (which includes traffic lights and traffic jams) – ratchet freak Dec 20 '12 at 20:50
  • 4
    Would absence of evidence be enough evidence of absence? I have googled and googled and can't turn up anything that says no neutral at a red. Heck, there are some car models that even have a sort of idle shut off feature. – Larian LeQuella Dec 21 '12 at 2:00
  • 2
    In Europe cars with a Stop-Start System (engine shuts down at idle) are becoming rather common. So if being in neutral is already illegal, ... – Oliver_C Dec 21 '12 at 10:02
  • 1
    Do you mean gearbox stick in neutral position or also the situation where the gearbox stick is in a position but the clutch is disengaged because the pedal is down? – Pieter B Dec 21 '12 at 14:24
  • 3
    Minnesota is mountainous? – Keith Thompson Aug 13 '13 at 2:32
18

I haven't yet found any jurisdiction that has such a rule. I'll complete this search, but until now, I've searched in many of the states, especially the most populous, and some of the larger cities.

Alabama

The Code of Alabama has only a no-coasting on a downgrade law (32-5A-57). It doesn't have any law about being in neutral at a red light.

Alaska

Alaska Statutes don't have any laws regarding being in neutral.

Arizona

Section 28-895 of the Arizona Statutes is the only mention of "neutral" in the Transportation title, and it's a no-coasting on a downgrade law.

Arkansas

Arkansas has a no-coasting on a downgrade law: A.C.A. § 27-51-1404 (2012)

California

The California 2013 driver handbook makes no mention of such a rule.

Searching through the California statutes for the terms "neutral" or "gear" did not return any relevant statutes, only a no-coasting rule at Section 21710:

The driver of a motor vehicle when traveling on down grade upon any highway shall not coast with the gears of such vehicle in neutral.

Colorado

Colorado only has a no-coasting on a downgrade law: C.R.S. 42-4-1009 (2012)

Connecticut

[Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 248, Section 14-222 (2013)]

The statute prohibits coasting only for vehicles with commercial registrations.

Delaware

Delaware statutes only have a no-coasting on a downgrade law at § 4187.

Florida

Florida statutes make no mention of the word "neutral".

The Florida Driver's Handbook doesn't mention such a rule.

Miami-Dade county doesn't have such a rule.

Georgia

Georgia Code only has a no-coasting on a downgrade rule (§ 40-6-246), and no restrictions about being neutral at a red light.

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

625 ILCS 5/Ch. 11 (Illinois Vehicle Code: Rules of the Road) doesn't mention such a rule. It does have a no-coasting on a downgrade rule, though:

Sec. 11-1410. Coasting prohibited. (a) The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the gears or transmission of such vehicle in neutral.

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Massachusetts doesn't have any laws about the use of neutral.

Michigan

The Michigan Vehicle Code only has a no-coasting on a downgrade statute.

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Montana code only has a no-coasting on a downgrade law: 61-8-362.

Nebraska

Nebraska Statutes only have a no-coasting on a downgrade law: 60-6,182

Nevada

Nevada statutes only have a no-coasting on a downgrade law: NRS 484B.123

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Jersey Statutes only have a no-coasting on a downgrade law at Section 39:4-55.

New Mexico

New York

[New York Statues, Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1216]:

Coasting prohibited. The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the gears of such vehicle in neutral, nor with the clutch disengaged.

The code does not mention anything about coasting while approaching a red light.

New York State's Driver's Manual doesn't mention such a rule.

New York City's traffic rules make no mention of such a rule.

North Carolina

North Carolina Statutes Chapter 20 (Motor Vehicles) does not mention the word "neutral".

North Dakota

Ohio

Ohio statutes don't have such a rule.

Oklahoma

Oregon

[Oregon Revised Statutes, Chapter 811, Section 811.495]

Unlawful coasting on downgrade.

(1) A person commits the offense of unlawful coasting on a downgrade if the person is the driver of a vehicle on a downgrade and the person coasts with the gears or transmission of the motor vehicle in neutral or with the clutch disengaged.

(2) This section does not apply to the driver of a motorized bicycle.

(3) The offense described in this section, unlawful coasting on a downgrade, is a Class D traffic violation.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 (Vehicles) doesn't mention such a rule.

Rhode Island

[Rhode Island General Laws, Section 31-22-6.]

Coasting prohibited.

(a) The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down grade shall not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral.

(b) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle, when traveling upon a down grade, shall not coast with the clutch disengaged.

(c) Violations of this section are subject to fines enumerated in § 31-41.1-4.

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Tennessee Code Annotated 55-8-167 has a no-coasting rule (either in neutral or clutch disengaged,) but no rule regarding a vehicle stopped at an intersection.

(a) The driver of any motor vehicle, when traveling upon a down grade, shall not coast with the gears of the vehicle in neutral.
(b) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle, when traveling upon a down grade, shall not coast with the clutch disengaged.

This rule is also mentioned in the Tennessee Comprehensive Driver License Manual.

Texas

Texas Statutes Transportation Code Title 7 Chapter 545 has a no coasting rule at section 406:

An operator moving on a downgrade may not coast with the gears or transmission of the vehicle in neutral.

It doesn't have any rule about being in neutral approaching a red light.

The Texas Driver's Handbook only mentions the no-coasting on a downgrade rule.

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

The Code of Virginia only has a no-coasting on a downgrade law at section 46.2-811. There is no red-light neutral rule.

Washington

Washington only has a no-coasting on a downgrade rule at Section 46.61.630.

West Virginia

West Virginia statutes don't have any laws about being in neutral.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin statutes don't have any laws about being in neutral.

Wyoming

District of Columbia

  • 2
    I'm slightly off-topic here: isn't the sole purpose of no-coasting laws to allow people to maintain speed while downshifting? If so, aren't these no-coasting rules outdated now since the large majority of cars in the US have an automatic transmission with no possibility to downshift (excluding sequential gear boxes)? – ChrisR Aug 13 '13 at 7:58
  • 4
    When going downhill, a coasting car is more difficult to handle in case of a brake failure. – Suma Aug 13 '13 at 9:37
  • 3
    @JohnC although I think the danger is slightly overstated, this site quotes the UK's highway code, which apparently states: "Do not coast, whatever the driving conditions. It reduces driver control because 1. engine braking is eliminated, 2. vehicle speed downhill will increase quickly, 3. increased use of the footbrake can reduce its effectiveness, 4. steering response will be affected particularly on bends and corners, 5. it may be more difficult to select the appropriate gear when needed." – Daniel B Aug 21 '13 at 11:55
  • 2
    The UK highway code cited by @DanielB summarizes it nicely. In real life, if you are driving in the mountains, 2 and especially 3 are important (brakes will fade). Approaching hairpins in neutral or in a high gear, for example, it is a common mistake done by people who live in flat countries. After 5/6 hairpins your brakes are "cooked" – Lorenzo Dematté Sep 6 '13 at 12:10
  • 2
    @gnasher729 by kludge, do you mean clutch? – anaximander Oct 17 '16 at 12:53

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .