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Road rules

Offences and Penalties

There are many laws governing drivers, riders and pedestrians. If you breach the road rules or your licence conditions, you could incur demerit points, have to pay a fine or face more serious consequences like losing your licence.

Legislation

Most driving offences are covered by the Road Traffic Act 1961 (RTA) and in Regulations made under this Act such as the Australian Road Rules (ARR) and the Road Traffic (Road Rules – Ancillary and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2014 (RT RR Regs). In addition, the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (MVA) regulates (amongst other things) the issuing of driver's licences, the registration of motor vehicles and compulsory third party insurance.

Hoon driving provisions are covered by the Criminal Law (Clamping, Impounding and Forfeiture of Vehicles) Act 2007 and the Criminal Law (Clamping, Impounding and Forfeiture of Vehicles) Regulations 2007, although the range of offences for which a car may be clamped or impounded are much broader. Serious offences (otherwise known as indictable offences) such as causing death or injury by reckless or dangerous driving are contained in the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935.

Demerit Points

Drivers incur demerit points for certain traffic offences. The number of demerit points incurred depends on the offence and how likely it is to cause a crash.

Demerit points are incurred whether the offence is committed in South Australia or interstate.

  • If you hold a full licence and accumulate:
    • six or more demerit points, a warning notice is sent to you (unless you have an interstate address) warning that you are close to being disqualified from driving.
    • 12 to 15 demerit points you lose your right to drive for three months.
    • 16 to 20 demerit points you lose your right to drive for four months.
    • more than 20 demerit points you lose your right to drive for five months.
  • If you hold a Learner's Permit or Provisional Licence and you accumulate 4 or more demerit points you could lose your right to drive for at least six months.
  • If you hold a Probationary licence and accumulate 2 or more demerit points you could lose your right to drive for at least six months.
  • Find out how to check your demerits and driving history

Fines

If you commit a traffic offence, you may be issued with an expiation notice and have to pay a fine. An expiation notice can be issued for a variety of reasons. However, drivers are most likely to be issued one for a breach of traffic laws, for example a speeding offence. A Victims of crime levy also applies to most traffic offences, however it does not apply to expiation notices (e.g. parking fines) issued by local councils or any other authorities listed under the Victims of Crime (Fund and Levy) Regulations 2003.

If you receive an expiation notice in the mail and you were not the driver at the time of the offence, you may complete a statutory declaration nominating the driver. An expiation notice will then be re-issued to the nominated driver.

To contest the offence you may choose not to pay the fine and elect to have the matter heard in court.

If you have an overdue fine, you may have your driver's licence suspended or be refused vehicle registration, regardless of whether the offence is traffic related or not. The Fines Enforcement and Recovery Unit may request the Registrar of Motor Vehicles not to transact any business with you and that your driver's licence be suspended until the fine is paid.

Losing your licence (disqualification)

The following offences may result in you being disqualified from driving:

  • accumulating 12 or more demerit points
  • breaching a good behaviour condition on your licence
  • breaching a condition of your probationary licence
  • two or more drug driving offences within a five year period.
  • drink driving – exceeding blood alcohol concentration.
  • You will lose your licence immediately, if you are caught drink driving (.08 or higher), refusing or failing to comply with a breath test, blood test, drug test or speeding excessively (i.e.45km/h or more over the speed limit).

What happens if you are disqualified from driving?

If you are disqualified from driving you will receive a notice of disqualification in the mail (unless it is an immediate loss of licence for speeding excessively, drink driving or refusing or failing to comply with a breath test, blood test or drug test or other court imposed disqualification).

If you are disqualified from driving as a result of the accumulation of demerit points, the disqualification starts 28 days after a formal notice is sent to you, providing you formally acknowledge receipt of the notice within this timeframe. If you are already disqualified, any new disqualification will start immediately after the existing disqualification ends.

Where the disqualification is due to the accumulation of 12 or more demerit points you may be provided with the option of either being disqualified for the period stated in the notice or electing to be of 'good behaviour' (see below) for 12 months.

You must acknowledge receipt of a disqualification notice in person and pay a fee. Failure to do this will result in the notice being served on you personally and a higher fee is payable.

If you cannot be served a notice of disqualification personally, you will be prohibited from transacting any business under the Motor Vehicles Act, such as renewing your vehicle registration.

If you are disqualified from driving, your licence will be suspended and in some cases cancelled. If your licence is cancelled you will not receive a refund of the period remaining on the licence.

Good behaviour option

You may be eligible to apply for a 12 month good behaviour option in lieu of serving the demerit point disqualification. Information about this option is provided on the disqualification notice.

You must notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles within 21 days of the date the notice of disqualification was issued or personally served if you wish to elect the 'good behaviour' option. Failure to apply within this timeframe will result in the disqualification taking effect as specified in the notice.  With the permission of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, and only if lodging the application at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, the application for the 'good behaviour' option can be accepted up to 28 days from the date the notice was issued or personally served.

Once the good behaviour condition is accepted, you will be able to continue to drive but your licence will be subject to the condition that you do not incur two or more demerit points during the good behaviour period. If you incur two or more points you will be disqualified for twice the original disqualification period (with no right of appeal or further good behaviour option).

Demerit points associated with an existing demerit disqualification or good behaviour option are not counted towards a future disqualification.

Safer Driver Agreement

If you hold a provisional licence and you are disqualified for accumulating four or more demerit points, or contravening a prescribed condition, you may choose to enter into a Safer Driver Agreement in lieu of serving the six month disqualification period -  unless you committed a serious disqualification offence. 

You must notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles within 21 days of the date the notice of disqualification was issued or personally served if you wish to elect for a Safer Driver Agreement.  Failure to apply within this timeframe will result in the disqualification taking effect as specified in the notice.  With the permission of the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, and only if lodging the application at a Service SA Customer Service Centre, the application for a Safer Driver Agreement can be accepted up to 28 days from the date the notice was issued or personally served.

If you breach the Safer Driver Agreement conditions you will be disqualified for 12 months (twice the original disqualification period) which you must serve. You will not be eligible to choose a Safer Driver Agreement if you are disqualified again within the next five years.

  • Alcohol interlock

If you commit a serious drink driving offence you will have an alcohol interlock (breath-testing device) fitted to your vehicle for a period of time at the end of the licence disqualification period.

>        Read more information about the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme

>        Read more about alcohol and drug driving

Wheel clamping and vehicle impounding

Wheel clamping, impounding or forfeiture of a vehicle may occur in addition to any other penalty that may apply to offences such as dangerous driving, careless driving, excessive speed, drink and drug driving, driving while disqualified and causing the vehicle to make excessive noise or smoke, amongst others.

In such cases, the police are authorised to:

  • immediately wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle for up to 28 days
  • apply to the courts to extend that period to 6 months
  • wheel-clamp or impound any vehicle owned by the alleged offender, not only the one in which the offence was committed.

The Courts also have discretion to impose harsher penalties upon repeat offenders, including permanent vehicle seizure. 

A car is impounded when secured at premises under the authority of the Commissioner of Police and the Sheriff. Forfeited vehicles may be taken from hoon drivers and sold by the state of South Australia.

>         Read more about hoon driving and the offences for which vehicles may be wheel clamped, impounded or forfeited.

Summary of offences and penalties

The table below provides a summary of select road safety related offences that attract demerit points as well as the expiation fees applicable for each offence.

Other more serious traffic offences, which are not expiable and must be heard by a court, but still attract demerit points, are also included.

A complete list of the expiation fees and demerit points that apply to road traffic as well as registration and licensing offences are set out in:

Effective 1 July 2016

* A Victims of Crime levy ($60) applies in addition to the expiation fees shown below.

Speeding

These speeding offences also apply to exceeding the 25km/h speed limit when passing a school bus or an emergency service speed zone. (RTA S82(1) RTA S83(1)(a) )

OffenceLegislationExpiation fee* $Expiation fee for road trains* $Demerit points

by less than 10km/h

ARR 20
RT RR Regs 8(1)
1664402
by 10km/h or more but less than 20km/hARR 20
RT RR Regs 8(1)
3635513
by 20km/h or more but less than 30km/hARR 20
RT RR Regs 8(1)
7388485
by 30km/h or more but less than 45km/h ARR 20

RT RR Regs 8(1)

8819927
by 45km/h or more

This offence will also incur automatic loss of licence for six months. Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.

RTA s45A(b)

RTA s45A(a)

99211019
  
TypeOffenceLegislationExpiation fee* $Demerit points
Seatbelts and RestraintsFailing to wear seatbelt - driverARR 264(1)3473
 Failing to wear seatbelt - passenger 16 years or olderARR 265(1)3473
 Failing to ensure passengers under 16 years old are wearing seatbelts or approved child restraints:   
 
  • 1 person
ARR 266 (1)3473
 
  • more than 1 person
ARR 266(1)4105

Drink Driving

Category 1 (first offence): driving with BAC 0.05-0.079

Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.  Note this sanction is not available where an expiation notice is issued for an offence.

RTA s47B(1)5874
  Category 2: driving with BAC 0.08-0.149

This offence will also incur immediate loss of licence for 6 months. Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.  A second offence within 5 years requires an alcohol interlock to be fitted at the end of the disqualification period.

RTA s47B(1)Court imposed penalty5
  Category 3: driving with BAC 0.15 or over

This offence will also incur immediate loss of licence for 12 months. Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle. An alcohol interlock is also required at the end of the disqualification period.

RTA s47B(1)Court imposed penalty6
  Refusing or failing to comply with direction of police officer in relation to alcotest or breath analysis

This offence will also incur immediate loss of licence for 12 months. An alcohol interlock is also required at the end of the disqualification period.

RTA s47E(3)Court imposed penalty6
     
Drug Driving Driving with prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood (Methylamphetamine, THC or MDMA)

Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.

RTA s47BA(1)5874
  Refusing or failing to comply with direction of police officer in relation to drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test

This offence will also incur immediate loss of licence for 6 months.

RTA s47EAA(9)Court imposed penalty6
 
Driving under the influence Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.  Where alcohol is involved, an alcohol interlock is also required at the end of the disqualification period.

RTA s47(1)Court imposed penalty6
  Refusing or failing to comply with request to submit to taking of sample of blood

This offence will also incur immediate loss of licence for 12 months.  An alcohol interlock is also required at the end of the disqualification period.

RTA s47I(14)Court imposed penalty6
 

Driving with attitude (hoon driving)

Misuse of a motor vehicle

Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.

RTA s44B(3)Court imposed penalty4
  Driving recklessly or at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public.

Police may also wheel clamp or impound an offender's vehicle.

RTA s46(1)Court imposed penalty6
 
Failing to stop after accidentFailing to stop and give assistance immediately after accident involving injury or deathRTA s43(1)Court imposed penalty5
 
Mobile PhoneUsing mobile phone while drivingARR 300(1)3203
 
Red light runningFail to stop for red traffic lightARR 56(1)4443
 
Heavy VehicleFail to drive truck or bus in low gear on length of road where sign appliesARR 108(1) 348 3
 
MotorcyclingFail to wear approved motorbike helmetARR 270(1)2683
 Ride motorbike with more than one pillion passengerARR 271(4)127-
 
Illegal TurningFail to keep left when turningARR 27(1)3092
 Starting U-turn without clear viewARR 373702
 Disobey no U-turn sign at break in dividing stripARR 39(1)3482
 Fail to indicate left before turning leftARR 46(1)3032
 
Failing to give wayFail to give way at intersection when traffic lights not operatingARR 63(2)4103
 Fail to give way to pedestrians on crossing (not at intersection) with flashing yellow lightsARR 65(2)3903
 Fail to give way at give way signARR 69(1)4103
 Fail to give way at intersection (except T-intersection or roundabout)ARR 72(1)4103
 Fail to give way when changing lanesARR 148(1)3183
 
Children's CrossingsFailing to stop at children's crossingARR 80(2)4103
 
Emergency VehiclesFail to move out of path of police or emergency vehicleARR 78(2)4103
 
LightingFail to use lights when driving at night or in hazardous conditionsARR 215(1)2331
 
Disobeying SignsFail to stop and give way at "stop" signARR 67(1)4103
 Overtake contrary to signARR 93(1)3482
 Driving wrong way on road with one way signARR 98(1)4103
 
TailgatingFail to keep safe distance behind other vehiclesARR 1263201
 Fail to keep minimum distance behind long vehicleARR 127(1)2331
 
RoundaboutsFail to enter roundabout from correct laneARR 111(1)3483
 Fail to give way when entering roundaboutARR 114(1)4103
 
Level CrossingsFail to stop and give way at stop sign at level crossingARR 1214443
 
Incorrect Lane behaviourFail to drive in direction indicated by traffic lane arrowsARR 92(1)3483
 Fail to keep to far left side of roadARR 129(1)2922
 Overtake when not safe to do so (including minimum distance for passing a cyclist)ARR 1402922
 Driving in bicycle laneARR 153(1)255-
 
CyclingBicycle rider overtaking to left of vehicle turning leftARR 141(2)55-
 Bicycle rider holding onto moving vehicleARR 254(2)100 -
 Fail to wear appropriate bicycle helmetARR 256(1)100-
 Riding bicycle at night or in hazardous weather conditions without displaying lightsARR 25955-
 Bicycle rider proceeding when bicycle crossing lights changeARR 262(1)553
 
Pedestrians

Failing to cross road in accordance with rule that a pedestrian must:

  • cross by the shortest safe route
  • not stay on the road longer than necessary to cross the road safely 
ARR 230(1)47-
 Failing to cross road with pedestrian lights in accordance with ruleARR 231(1)47-
 Crossing road within 20m of crossing for pedestriansARR 234(1)47-
 Pedestrian causing traffic hazardARR 236(1)47-
 Pedestrian travelling along a road - failing to use a footpathARR 238(1)47-
     
 
BehaviouralTravelling in or on part of motor vehicle not designed primarily for carriage of passengers or goods (e.g. back of ute)ARR 268(1)3473
 Creating hazard by opening door of vehicle, leaving door openARR 269(3)1753
 Driving vehicle without having proper control of the vehicleARR 297(1)176-

Novice drivers and riders

The table below shows some of the penalties that apply only to holders of a Learner's Permit or Provisional Licence.

Effective 1 July 2015

* A Victims of Crime levy ($60) applies in addition to the expiation fees shown below.

OffencesAct / RegulationExpiation fee $Demerit points
Learner's permit or P1 licence holder driving a car on road while plates are not correctly affixed to the car:MVA s75A(15)(b) and s81A(15)(b)  
  • only one plate affixed
 199-
  • no plates affixed
 3412
Learner's permit or P1 licence holder riding a motorbike on road while no plate affixed to the motorbikeMVA s75A(15)(a) and s81A(15)(a)3412
Holder of learner's permit riding a motorbike between midnight and 5am without carrying passenger acting as a qualified supervising driversMVA s75A(20)3413
Failing to carry or produce a learner's permit or provisional licence while drivingMVA s98AAB187-
Contravening a condition of learner's permit or provisional licence **MVA s75A(14) or s81A(9)341-
Holder of P1 or P2 licence under the age of 25 years driving a high powered vehicleMVA s81A(13)3413
Failing to carry or produce an exemption certificate while driving a high powered vehicleMV Regs s55E204-
Learner or P1 driver using mobile phone while driving vehicleRT RR Regs 44(1)3203
Holder of P1 licence under the age of 25 years driving between midnight and 5am without being accompanied by a qualified supervising driverMVA s81A(16)3413
Holder of P1 licence under the age of 25 years driving with 2 or more peer passengers in the vehicle without being accompanied by a qualified supervising driverMVA s81A(18)3413

** The penalty for contravening one of your licence conditions may apply in addition to the penalty for the offence itself (e.g. in the case of speeding or drink driving).

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