Vehicle Code 21710 CVC is the California statute that makes it a traffic violation for a driver to coast in neutral while going downhill. The law applies to both commercial drivers and non-commercial drivers. A violation of the code section is charged as an infraction and results in a traffic ticket in the amount of $238.
CVC 21710 states that “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.”
Examples of illegal acts
- driving a car down a Los Angeles hill and putting the gear in neutral.
- overtaking a vehicle while on a down grade and putting the car in neutral.
- going down a San Diego roadway, that is on a decline, and switching the vehicle into neutral to conserve gas.
A defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a moving violation under this statute. Common defenses include the defendant showing that:
- he/she was not on a downhill,
- the police made an error in giving the ticket, and/or
- he/she was on private property.
The offense is punishable by a traffic ticket in the amount of $238.
Note that a penalty for some California traffic offenses is that the DMV charges a driver with a point against his or her driver’s license. A violation of this law, though, results in no points on a motorist’s driving record.
This is a good thing since the accumulation of points can lead to:
- a license suspension,
- the revocation of driving privileges, or
- the California DMV declaring a driver a negligent operator.
Our personal injury and criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. When is coasting in neutral illegal in California?
- 2. Can I challenge a CVC 21710 citation?
- 3. How much is the fine?
- 4. What happens if a motorist ignores a ticket?
- 5. How does violating this section affect a personal injury lawsuit?
- 6. Are there California laws related to this code section?
1. When is coasting in neutral illegal in California?
Vehicle Code 21710 says that it is illegal for a driver of a vehicle to put the car in neutral when going down a hill.1
The reason for the law is that coasting down a hill is unsafe as it prevents a motorist from making a sudden movement to avoid a hazard or emergency. Coasting also restricts one from braking.
Note that drivers often get cited for breaking this law along with other traffic offenses, including:
Note too that this statute applies to both drivers of commercial vehicles and drivers of non-commercial vehicles.
2. Can I challenge a CVC 21710 citation?
Criminal defense attorneys, and law firms, use different legal strategies to challenge allegations of breaking these laws. Some include showing that:
- the defendant was not traveling down a hill.
- the police made an error.
- an accused was on private property.
2.1. Not on a downhill
A driver is only guilty under this statute if he or she was traveling on a “down grade.” This means going down a hill or a decline. A defense, therefore, is for an accused to say that he/she was in neutral going:
- uphill, or
- on a level section of roadway.
2.2. Police error
It is difficult for authorities to determine what gear a driver is operating a car in. This means there is the opportunity for police to simply “get it wrong” when they assert that a driver was in neutral on a downhill. A defense, then, is for an accused to say that the police issued a ticket in error as they made a mistake in their observations or conclusions.
2.3. Private property
This statute only applies to public roadways. A driver, therefore, cannot be guilty of coasting in neutral if he or she was operating a vehicle on private property.
3. How much is the fine?
A violation of CVC 21710 results in a traffic ticket in the amount of $238.
No points, though, get placed on a motorist’s driving record. This is good since DMV points can lead to:
- a driver’s license getting suspended, or
- the revocation of driving privileges.
A motorist that violates this statute may be eligible for traffic school.
4. What happens if a motorist ignores a ticket?
A driver cannot ignore a traffic ticket.
Ignoring a ticket results in a new crime, “failure to appear,” per Vehicle Code 40508 CVC.
A person has to sign a written promise to appear in court if he/she is issued a traffic ticket in California.
A party commits a crime if he/she willfully breaks this promise and fails to show in court while ignoring a ticket.2
The offense in question is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:
5. How does violating this section affect a personal injury lawsuit?
A driver that coasts in neutral runs the risk of causing an accident with another car (e.g., in a rear-end collision). If so, and the other driver suffers injuries in the accident, he/she can later file a personal injury lawsuit against the coasting motorist.
In this suit, the at-fault driver may be found “negligent.” Negligence means that the driver:
- is liable for the injuries, and
- must compensate the plaintiff for any injuries that he/she suffered.
California law says that a driver is “negligent per se” if he/she violates a statute. In the context of CVC 21710, this means a driver would be negligent per se in an accident if he/she:
- caused the accident and injured another party, and
- was coasting in neutral in violation of the statue.
6. Are there California laws related to this code section?
There are three offenses related to coasting in neutral. These are:
- illegal U-turns – CVC 22101,
- failure to yield when making a left turn or a U-turn – CVC 21801, and
- disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300.
6.1. Illegal U-turns in a business district – CVC 22102
Vehicle Code 22102 CVC makes it illegal for a person to make a U-turn in a business district, except at an opening or intersection where authorized.
Unlike coasting in neutral, a violation of this law results in one point against the offender’s driver’s license.
6.2. Failure to yield when making a left turn or a U-turn – CVC 21801
Vehicle Code 21801 CVC is the California statute that applies when a driver is turning left or completing a U-turn to the left and is facing oncoming traffic. The law says that a motorist in this situation must yield the right-of-way to approaching traffic up until he/she can complete the turn with reasonable safety.
As with a CVC 21710 violation, breaking this law means a ticket and a fine of $238.
6.3. Disobeying a sign, signal, or traffic control device – CVC 38300
Vehicle Code 38300 CVC is the California statute that makes it an offense for a driver to disobey any:
- traffic sign,
- signal, or
- traffic control device.
Some examples of “signs, signals, and devices” are:
- stop signs,
- red lights,
- speed limits (e.g., trucks speeding over 55 miles per hour), and
- do not enter signs.
Unlike a coasting in neutral charge, a ticket under this statute will result in one DMV point.
- California Vehicle Code 21710 CVC. See also Graban v. Gonzales (1933) 134 Cal. App. 657.
- California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.
- California Penal Code 19 PC.