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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
  • accumulating 4 or more demerit points on your learner's permit or provisional licence
  • 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).

Graffiti Offences

You can also be disqualified from driving if you are convicted in court of a graffiti related offence.

You may be disqualified from driving for one to six months.

Your vehicle's registration may also be suspended and your vehicle impounded.

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 time frame. 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.

If you are eligible to make an application to enter into a 'good behaviour' option, you must notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles within 28 days of the date of issue on the notice at an Australia Post (EPOS) outlet or a Service SA customer service centre.

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).

All demerit points that resulted in the issue of the notice of disqualification, and any demerit points for offences committed before the offence that brought the total number of demerit points to 12 or more, are discounted when the disqualification or good behaviour period commences.

Any demerit points for offences committed after the offence that resulted in the notice of disqualification being issued are not discounted and may contribute to a further notice.

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.

If you are eligible and you agree to the Safer Driver Agreement, you must notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles within 28 days of the date of issue on the notice at an Australia Post (EPOS) outlet or a Service SA customer service centre.

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.

Graffiti Offences

Your vehicle can also be impounded if you are convicted in court of a graffiti related offence.

You can also be disqualified from from driving and have your vehicle's registration suspended.

A trial of e-scooters (electric scooters) has been approved to take place in the Adelaide CBD.
Find all information about the trial here. Find all rules here.

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 4 October 2019

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

Body Corporate Fee#

OffenceLegislationExpiation fee* $
Where company vehicle is involved in a red-light AND speeding offenceRTA 79B(2a)(a)(i)3600
Where company vehicle is involved in a red light OR a speeding offenceRTA 79B(2a)(b)(i)1800

# A body corporate fee applies to a business that fails to nominate the driver responsible for a camera-detected speeding and/or red-light offence.  A body corporate that successfully nominates the responsible driver will not incur the body corporate fee.

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)
177 469 2
by 10km/h or more but less than 20km/h ARR 20
RT RR Regs 8(1)
398 604 3
by 20km/h or more but less than 30km/h ARR 20
RT RR Regs 8(1)
810 930 5
by 30km/h or more but less than 45km/h ARR 20

RT RR Regs 8(1)

1472 1658 7
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)

1658 1723 9
  
TypeOffenceLegislationExpiation fee* $Demerit points
Seatbelts and Restraints Failing to wear seatbelt - driver ARR 264(1) 381 3
  Failing to wear seatbelt - passenger 16 years or older ARR 265(1) 381 3
  Failing to ensure passengers under 16 years old are wearing seatbelts or approved child restraints:    
 
  • 1 person
ARR 266 (1) 381 3
 
  • more than 1 person
ARR 266(1) 449 5

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) 743 4
  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 penalty 5
  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 penalty 6
  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 penalty 6
     
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) 743 4
  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 penalty 6
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 penalty 6
  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 penalty 6
 

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 penalty 4
  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 penalty 6
Failing to stop after accident Failing to stop and give assistance immediately after accident involving injury or death RTA s43(1) Court imposed penalty 5
Mobile Phone Using mobile phone while driving ARR 300(1) 534 3
Red light running Fail to stop for red traffic light ARR 56(1) 487 3
 
Trucks and Buses Fail to drive truck or bus in low gear on length of road where sign applies ARR 108(1)  382  3
 Driver of truck or bus on prescribed road* exceeding relevant speed limit by 10km/h or moreRTA s45C(1)10366
 Driver of truck or bus on prescribed road* failing to engage low gearRTA s45C(2)10366
"Truck" is defined as a motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of more than 4.5 tonne, regardless of the body type (excluding tractors, trams and buses).

"Bus" is defined as a motor vehicle that seats more than 12 adults including the driver (regardless of GVM)

* Prescribed road refers to the down-track of the South Eastern Freeway as indicated on the map here, ending in at the intersection of Portrush Road, Cross Road and Glen Osmond Road.
Motorcycling Fail to wear approved motorbike helmet ARR 270(1) 294 3
  Ride motorbike with more than one pillion passenger ARR 271(4) 140 -
Illegal Turning Fail to keep left when turning ARR 27(1) 339 2
  Starting U-turn without clear view ARR 37 405 2
  Disobey no U-turn sign at break in dividing strip ARR 39(1) 382 2
  Fail to indicate left before turning left ARR 46(1) 333 2
 
Failing to give way Fail to give way at intersection when traffic lights not operating ARR 63(2) 449 3
  Fail to give way to pedestrians on crossing (not at intersection) with flashing yellow lights ARR 65(2) 428 3
  Fail to give way at give way sign ARR 69(1) 449 3
  Fail to give way at intersection (except T-intersection or roundabout) ARR 72(1) 449 3
  Fail to give way when changing lanes ARR 148(1) 349 3
Children's Crossings Failing to stop at children's crossing ARR 80(2) 449 3
Emergency Vehicles Fail to move out of path of police or emergency vehicle ARR 78(2) 449 3
Lighting Fail to use lights when driving at night or in hazardous conditions ARR 215(1) 255 1
Disobeying Signs Fail to stop and give way at "stop" sign ARR 67(1) 449 3
  Overtake contrary to sign ARR 93(1) 382 2
  Driving wrong way on road with one way sign ARR 98(1) 449 3
 
Tailgating Fail to keep safe distance behind other vehicles ARR 126 351 1
  Fail to keep minimum distance behind long vehicle ARR 127(1) 255 1
 
Roundabouts Fail to enter roundabout from correct lane ARR 111(1) 382 3
  Fail to give way when entering roundabout ARR 114(1) 449 3
 
Level Crossings Fail to stop and give way at stop sign at level crossing ARR 121 487 3
 
Incorrect Lane behaviour Fail to drive in direction indicated by traffic lane arrows ARR 92(1) 382 3
  Fail to keep to far left side of road ARR 129(1) 320 2
  Overtake when not safe to do so (including minimum distance for passing a cyclist) ARR 140 320 2
  Driving in bicycle lane ARR 153(1) 280 -
 
Cycling Bicycle rider overtaking to left of vehicle turning left ARR 141(2) 60 -
  Bicycle rider holding onto moving vehicle ARR 254(2) 109 -
  Fail to wear appropriate bicycle helmet ARR 256(1) 109 -
  Riding bicycle at night or in hazardous weather conditions without displaying lights ARR 259 60 -
  Bicycle rider proceeding when bicycle crossing lights change ARR 262(1) 60 3
 
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) 51 -
  Failing to cross road with pedestrian lights in accordance with rule ARR 231(1) 51 -
  Crossing road within 20m of crossing for pedestrians ARR 234(1) 51 -
  Pedestrian causing traffic hazard ARR 236(1) 51 -
  Pedestrian travelling along a road - failing to use a footpath ARR 238(1) 51 -
     
 
Behavioural Travelling in or on part of motor vehicle not designed primarily for carriage of passengers or goods (e.g. back of ute) ARR 268(1) 381 3
  Creating hazard by opening door of vehicle, leaving door open ARR 269(3) 192 3
  Driving vehicle without having proper control of the vehicle ARR 297(1) 193 -
     
Fog Lights Using a fog light when not permitted ARR 217(1) 255

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 2019

* 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
 217-
  • no plates affixed
 3752
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)3752
Holder of learner's permit riding a motorbike between midnight and 5am without carrying passenger acting as a qualified supervising driversMVA s75A(20)3753
Failing to carry or produce a learner's permit or provisional licence while drivingMVA s98AAB205-
Contravening a condition of learner's permit or provisional licence **MVA s75A(14) or s81A(9)375-
Holder of P1 or P2 licence under the age of 25 years driving a high powered vehicleMVA s81A(13)3753
Failing to carry or produce an exemption certificate while driving a high powered vehicleMV Regs s55E224-
Learner or P1 driver using mobile phone while driving vehicleRT RR Regs 44(1)5343
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)3753
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)3753

** 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).

Drink and Drug Driving Penalties

Information on changes to the drink and drug driving laws from 22 February 2018 can be found on the Towards Zero Together website.

Severe penalties apply to drivers who commit drink and drug driving offences in South Australia.  Penalties may include  fines, licence disqualification, demerit points and even imprisonment in some cases.

These penalties are designed to send a clear message to drivers about the severity of drinking or taking drugs and operating a motor vehicle and highlight the danger these drivers present to themselves and the safety of other road users.

The penalty table below outlines the current drink and drug driving penalties in South Australia.

Drink driving penalties in South Australia

Driving with prescribed concentration of alcohol in blood
(section 47B of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

 

First offence

Second offence

Third or subsequent offence

Category 1 offence ^

(0.05-0.079)

'On the spot’ fine; and
4 demerit points

OR

Court penalty – a fine up to $1,100; and
4 demerit points; and Licence disqualification - not less than 3 months

Court penalty – a fine up to $1,100;

and

4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

Court penalty - a fine of up to $1,100;

and

4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification – not less than 9 months

Subsequent offence – as above + licence disqualification not less than 12 months

Category 2 offence + ^

(0.08-0.149)  

# - if second offence in 5yrs

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900and not more than $1,300;

and

5 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 6 months

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100and not more than $1,600;

and

5 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 12 months

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200;

and

5 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 2 years

Category 3 offence  + # ^

(0.15 or over)

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600;

and

6 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 12 months

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,600 and not more than $2,400;

and

6 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 3 years

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,900 and not more than $2,900;

and

6 demerit points;

and

Licence disqualification – not less than 3 years

DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF AN INTOXICATING LIQUOR OR DRUG # (alcohol only) ^

(section 47(1) of the   Road Traffic Act 1961)

First
offence

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1600; OR imprisonment for not more than three months; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification – not less than 12 months

Subsequent offences

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,900 and not more than $2,900; OR imprisonment for not more than 6 months; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 3 years

REFUSAL OR FAILURE  TO SUBMIT TO ALCOTEST OR BREATH ANALYSIS   + #

(section 47E(3) of the Road Traffic Act 1961) 

First
offence

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification – not less than 12 months

Subsequent offences

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,900 and not more than $2,900; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 3 years

Drug driving penalties in South Australia

 

PENALTIES 

Driving with prescribed drug in oral fluid or blood ^

(section 47BA of the Road Traffic Act 1961)

First
offence

‘On the spot’ fine; and
4 demerit points plus licence disqualification for three months
OR
Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than six months

Second offence

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,100 and not more than $1,600; and
4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 12 months

Third
offence

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 2 years

Subsequent offences

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
4 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 3 years

Refusal or failure to undertake a drug screening test, oral fluid analysis or blood test +

(section 47EAA of the Road Traffic Act 1961) 

First
offence

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $900 and not more than $1,300; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification – not less than 12 months

Subsequent offences

Court penalty – a fine of not less than $1,500 and not more than $2,200; and
6 demerit points; and
Licence disqualification - not less than 3 years

Notes:

+ denotes an offence to which “immediate loss of licence” applies under s47IAA of the Road Traffic Act 1961.

^ denotes an offence to which “clamping, impounding and forfeiture of a vehicle” is available under the Criminal Law (Clamping, Impounding and Forfeiture of Vehicles) Act 2007.  Note that these sanctions are not available where an expiation notice is issued for the offence.

# denotes an offence to which an “alcohol interlock” must be fitted to their vehicle at the end of their licence disqualification under s81E of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959.

Previous offences – Where a person commits a drink driving offence and has committed any of the offences listed in the tables above within the previous five years, that person is dealt with as a second offender, whether or not both offences are in the same category.  Drug driving offences are also considered. Where the previous offence is a first offence of exceeding the prescribed concentration of alcohol of 0.05 - .079 (i.e. category 1 BAC offence), the period is three years.

Dependency assessment* – An alcohol or drug dependency assessment may also be required, depending on the number of previous drink or drug driving offences committed.

From 24 April 2018

An alcohol or drug dependency assessment is required where a person has expiated or been convicted of one of the following offences which involved a child aged under 16 in the vehicle at the time of the offence:

  • Category 2 or Category 3 offence
  • Drug driving offence
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or
  • Refusing or failing to undertake an alcohol or drug screening test.

Also any drink and drug drivers  required to undertake a dependency assessment will have the option to complete an alcohol or drug dependency treatment programme.  Drivers must show they are not dependent in order to regain their driver's licence.

*Note – drivers required to enter the Mandatory Alcohol Interlock Scheme are exempt from undertaking a dependency assessment.

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