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Careless driving (driving without due care)

Elements of offence

It is an offence to drive without due care or attention or without reasonable consideration for others [Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) s 45].


A person who has been in any way negligent in the driving of a motor vehicle may be charged with this offence and it is often used in addition to another offence, where an admission has been made, or it appears the driver was careless. This is often the case where a driver has had a collision that is solely their fault (most notably running into a stationary object like a street sign or a parked car). If a driver pleads guilty to the other offence with which they have been charged it is likely that the police will agree to withdrawing the careless driving offence.


For a basic (non-aggravated) offence — a fine of up to $2500 and 3 demerit points [see Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) s 164A and Motor Vehicles Regulations 2010 (SA) Sch 4 pt 1(1)].

For an aggravated offence — a maximum of 12 months imprisonment and at least 6 months disqualification [Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA) s 45]. The 6-month disqualification is not mandatory if the aggravating circumstances were that the offence caused harm to a person if that harm fell short of serious harm [s 45(2a)].

Pursuant to s 45(3), an aggravated offence includes where the offender:

  • caused harm to another person (until 1 January 2024, careless driving was only aggravated if it caused death or serious harm to another person)
  • committed the offence in the course of attempting to escape a police pursuit
  • drove knowing that they were disqualified or suspended from driving
  • had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater at the time of the offence
  • was driving at excessive speed [s 45A], driving under the influence [s 47] or driving with a prescribed drug present in their oral fluid or blood [47BA]
  • was at the time of the offence driving a stolen motor vehicle or driving the motor vehicle without the owner’s consent
  • committed the offence knowing that there were one or more passengers in, or on, the motor vehicle
  • committed the offence whilst holding a provisional licence, probationary licence, learner’s permit, interstate provisional licence or interstate learner’s permit, or
  • committed the offence while they were not the holder of a valid driver’s licence or learner’s permit.

Careless driving (driving without due care)  :  Last Revised: Tue Jan 2nd 2024
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.