It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle in a manner which is reckless or dangerous to any person. 

Whether or not driving is reckless or dangerous depends on a number of factors, such as:

  • condition of the road;
  • amount of traffic;
  • time of day;
  • the weather; 
  • number of roads at the intersection you are travelling on; and/or
  • condition of the vehicle. 

A person may be charged with this offence even if no one was injured or where no other road user was at risk of injury, but only the driver themselves: Senior v R [2005] SASC 88. 

This offence is contained in section 46(1) of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA). 

Our criminal lawyers at Caldicott Lawyers are experts in all driving matters and specifically driving in a manner dangerous. 

The maximum penalty for the offence of driving in a manner dangerous is 2 years imprisonment.

The court must also order that you be disqualified from holding a driver’s licence for a period of at least 1 year if it is your first offence, or 3 years if it is your second offence.

Deciding whether or not to plead guilty to an offence of driving in a manner dangerous has important implications and should be made after proper discussions with an expert criminal lawyer.

If you do decide to plead guilty to an offence of driving in a manner dangerous we can assist you to get the best result possible.

Our team of specialist criminal lawyers have extensive criminal law experience and know the best way to present your case before each of the Magistrates in the State. The results they obtain speak for themselves.

Call 08 8120 3783 to make an appointment with one of the knowledgeable lawyers at Caldicott Lawyers for assistance with your driving matter.

You weren’t driving

In some cases the wrong person is charged with the offence. There are a variety of ways this can occur, such as an administrative error on the prosecution’s behalf or perhaps the offender was carrying your identification. Regardless, it is a complete defence to a dangerous driving charge if you can show that you were not driving the vehicle

Your driving posed no potential danger

The charge of drive in a manner dangerous hinges on the danger, or potential danger, your driving posed to the public. It may be the case that, despite your manner of driving being temerarious, there were no members of the public placed at the risk of harm as a result of your driving. If there is evidence to support this argument, then you may have a defence to this charge.

You were carrying out your duties as an emergency worker

Section 19A(10) of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 provides a complete defence for emergency workers if it can be shown that you were acting in the course of your employment, and that you were acting in accordance with the directions of your employer. You will also be required to prove that you were acting reasonably in the circumstances.


It is a complete defence to the charge of drive in a manner dangerous if we can show that you were acting under duress. That is, you were acting as a result of violence or some other threat against you. You will have a defence to this charge if we can demonstrate that you were coerced into the act by a third party, effectively rendering you an instrument of someone else’s criminal conduct.


The common law defence of necessity operates where the circumstances at hand (natural or human threats) require you to break the law in order to avoid even more dire consequences. Thus, there is some overlap with the defence of duress. It will need to be shown that you believed on reasonable grounds that you were placed in a situation of imminent peril. You may have a medical justification, or it may be the case that you were acting in the course of protecting yourself or someone else.

Essentially, the Court will need to weigh up the act you have committed against the harm you would have experienced had you not acted in that manner. Further, the Court will need to be convinced that the act was proportionate to the potential harm.

In addition, it may be possible to have the charge downgraded to driving without due care which has a lesser maximum penalty.

Mental Impairment

The law recognises that, in some cases, people will not be capable of evaluating the nature and quality of their conduct, or, more categorically, they will not know what they are doing is wrong. If it can be shown that you were suffering from some sort of mental disease, disorder or disturbance, as distinguished from a mere lack of self-control or impulsiveness, then you may have a defence to this charge.

Mental impairments may be either permanent or non-permanent and have been held to include disorders such as:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Hyperglycaemia
  • Psychomotor epilepsy
  • Cerebral arteriosclerosis

No Conviction

In the event that you are found guilty of an offence, section 16 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988 provides for the imposition of a penalty without a conviction being recorded. In order to achieve this result on your behalf, we will need to convince the court that you are unlikely to reoffend, and that there exists some other good reason (e.g. young age, good working background) for not recording the conviction.

Suspended Sentence

If you find yourself in the unfavourable position of not only having been found guilty of an offence, but also having been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, we may be able to obtain a suspended sentence on your behalf under section 38 of the Criminal Law (Sentencing) Act 1988. If you receive a suspended sentence, you will be required to enter into a good behaviour bond and to comply with any other conditions the court sees fit to impose.

Trifling Application or Application for Reduction of Demerit Points

Trifling application or any other proper cause: made immediately after conviction may have the effect of reducing the amount of demerit points. The same magistrate is required as the one who convicted the defendant to hear the evidence and decide if the offence is trifling or whether any other proper cause for reduction exists Zanker v Hyndman.

Proper cause must relate to the offence itself. The fact that may suffer hardship from recording demerit points not amount to proper cause Hepworth v Rowbottom.

The Police must prove that:

  1. you were driving a motor vehicle;
  2. the vehicle was on a road; and
  3. your driving was reckless or dangerous to the public.

This matter will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court of South Australia.

McBride v The Queen (1965) 115 CLR 44: A person may drive at a speed or in a manner dangerous to the public without causing any actual injury: it is the potentiality of danger to the public in the manner of driving, whether realised by the accused or not, which makes it dangerous to the public within the meaning of section 46.

Carter v Symonds (1990) 11 MVR 109: Bad driving may amount only to driving without due care and not to dangerous driving.

Come and see the helpful team at Caldicott Lawyers for assistance with your matter.