“I don’t know of anything that says you can’t do that,” said
The Washington State Patrol trooper said she learned to drive
doing it, and I’d just commented on how a lot of people ask me
about it when I tell them I’m hypermiling.
“Do you coast down hills?”, people ask.
To the RCW book and online reference Hedstrom went.
“I’ve never had to look that up,” she said.
Sure enough, RCW 46.61.630 spells it out:
(1) The driver of any motor vehicle when traveling upon a down
grade shall not coast with the gears of such vehicle in
(2) The driver of a commercial motor vehicle when traveling upon
a down grade shall not coast with the clutch disengaged.
Now, let’s be clear, I’m not trying to make Trooper Hedstrom
look silly for not knowing that one off the top of her head. If you
look at the “Rules of the road” section in the
state’s RCW database, you’ll quickly realize that no one probably
knows EVERY traffic law. And realize that most of the laws you see
have sub, sub-sub, and maybe sub-sub-sub laws.
I went to Hedstrom’s office this morning because I’ve wondered,
and some have debated, what’s legal and what’s not, when it comes
Laws vary from state to state, and I get the feeling a common
sense approach is the best way to go about things.
Some more “advanced” techniques are no-brainers, when it comes
to safety and legality. Drafting behind a semi? Take a guess.
Cutting off your engine while coasting? If you can’t coast in
neutral, again, take a guess?
“If you think in your mind it’s a bad idea, it probably is,”
During this experiment, I’ve agreed not to do anything illegal
or crazy, so I suppose I’ll “coast” down hills in 6th. Even with
that, there’s debate over whether in-gear engine braking or coasting in
neutral uses more fuel. (Anybody have an answer?)
Every time we get behind the wheel, we take a calculated – or
sometimes random – dose of risk in breaking or bending the rules of
If you speed, you know you’re risking a ticket, or increasing
the likelihood of a crash. One could say the same about coasting in
You exercise discretion in your driving style. Police exercise
discretion in writing tickets.
“We don’t really have a choice what we pay for gas,” Hedstrom
When you can, choose wisely.