Careless Driving and Dangerous Driving (SA)

Careless driving and dangerous driving are both offences under the Road Traffic Act 1962 in South Australia. A person who is found guilty of either of these offences will have their licence suspended for at least the mandatory minimum period. They will also face a fine and a possible term of imprisonment. This page deals with careless and dangerous driving in South Australia.

Careless driving

Careless driving is an offence under section 46 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. Careless driving is driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for others using the road.

If a careless driving offence is aggravated, it carries a maximum penalty of 12 months imprisonment and a mandatory minimum period of six months disqualification from driving. The court may impose a longer period of disqualification if it sees fit.

An offence of careless driving is aggravated if:

  • It caused death or serious harm
  • It was committed in an attempt to escape pursuit by the police;
  • The offender was driving while disqualified;
  • The offender was driving with a BAC of more than 0.08;
  • The offender was speeding, driving under the influence or driving with a prescribed drug in their system;
  • The vehicle was stolen or being used without permission;
  • The offender was a learner, provision or probationary licence holder or was unlicensed;
  • There was one or more passengers in the vehicle.

Reckless and dangerous driving

Reckless and dangerous driving is an offence under section 46 of the Road Traffic Act 1961. It occurs when a person drives recklessly or at a speed or in a manner that is dangerous to a person.

A first offence of reckless and dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of a fine of $2000 or imprisonment for two years.

A second or subsequent offence carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment for three years.

In assessing whether a person was driving recklessly or dangerous, the court will consider:

  • The road conditions
  • The amount of traffic on the road
  • The amount of traffic likely to enter the road
  • All other relevant circumstances.

Mandatory disqualification period apply to this offence.

For a first offence of reckless or dangerous driving, a person must be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months.

For a second or subsequent offence, a person must be disqualified for a period of at least three years.


Under the Road Traffic Act 1961, a person charged with careless driving or dangerous driving may have a legal defence if:

  • They were carrying out duties as an emergency worker;
  • They were acting in accordance with directions from their employing authority;
  • They were acting reasonably in the circumstances as the believed them to be.

A person charged with one of these offences may also rely on a general criminal defence such as duress or sudden and extraordinary emergency.

Under section 15D of the Criminal Law Act Consolidation Act 1935, a person is not guilty of an offence if they were acting under duress – that is, they were essentially ‘forced’ to commit the offence by serious threats and coercion by another person. This defence will only succeed if there was no other way to escape the threat being carried out and if the conduct was a reasonable response to the threat.

Under section 15E of the Criminal Law Act Consolidation Act 1935, a person is not guilty of an offence if they were acting in response to a sudden and extraordinary emergency. This defence will succeed only if the accused reasonably believed that emergency circumstances existed and that committing the offence was the only reasonable way to deal with the emergency and the conduct was a reasonable response to the emergency.


Careless driving and dangerous driving are summary offences and are dealt with in the South Australia Magistrates Court.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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