It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle without due care or attention, or without reasonable considerations for other people using the road. 

This offence is contained in section 45 of the Road Traffic Act 1961 (SA). 

Our criminal lawyers at Caldicott Lawyers are experts in all driving matters and specifically driving without due care. 

The maximum penalty that can be imposed for driving without due care depends on whether or not the offence is aggravated.

An aggravated offence is where one of the following applies:

  • you were attempting to escape pursuit by a police officer;
  • you were racing;
  • you were disqualified from driving;
  • there was prolonged bad driving;
  • you were drink driving and had a blood alcohol reading of more than 0.08 grams;
  • you were drug driving;
  • you were driving at more than 45km/hr over the speed limit; or
  • you had an illicit drug in your system.

The maximum penalty for a basic offence of driving without due care is a fine of $2,500 and 3 demerit points.

The maximum penalty for an aggravated offence is 1 year imprisonment. You will also be disqualified from holding a driver’s licence for at least six months.

Deciding whether or not to plead guilty to driving without due care has important implications and should be made after proper discussions with a criminal lawyer.

If you do decide to plead guilty to an offence of driving without due care 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 without due care matter.

You weren’t driving

In some cases the wrong person is charged with an offence. There are a variety of ways in which this can occur. It may be that there was an administrative error on the prosecution’s behalf or perhaps the offender was carrying your identification which they presented to police. It is a complete defence to this charge if it can be shown that you were not driving the vehicle.

You weren’t driving on a road

A road is defined as an area that is open to or used by the public and is developed for the driving of motor vehicles. Thus, if we can show that you were driving your vehicle on private property (e.g. your driveway) you will have a defence to this charge.

Your driving was appropriate in the circumstances

The court recognises that there are some extenuating circumstances that will affect your driving in such a manner that when taken on its own would appear reckless, yet it may be deemed appropriate when considered in the context of those circumstances.

Mechanical defect

If it can be shown that your vehicle was subject to a latent mechanical defect of which you were unaware and which could not have been discovered merely through the exercise of reasonable diligence and that the accident should be attributed to that defect, then you may have a defence to this charge.

Minor error of judgment

There is no requirement under the law for you to exercise perfect care when driving. Minor lapses in judgment or concentration (e.g. making slight contact with the vehicle behind you while reverse parking) were not the intended subject of this legislation and will serve as a defence to this charge.


It is a complete defence to this charge 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. The Court will need to be presented with evidence that indicates that you were coerced into the act by a third party, effectively rendering you an instrument of someone else’s criminal conduct.

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

Suspended Sentence

If you find yourself in the unfavourable position of not only having been found guilty of an offence of driving without due care, 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 Prosecution must prove that:

  1. you were driving a vehicle;
  2. the vehicle was on a road; and
  3. you did not exercise the care and attention required in the circumstances.

This is a summary matter and will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court of South Australia.

Ladlow v Hayes (1983) 8 A Crim R 377: Drivers must observe the standard of consideration for other road users that a reasonably prudent driver would observe in the circumstances.

Lajos v Samuels (1980) 26 SASR 514: A minor and common error of judgment does not involve any substantial departure from the standard to be expected of a reasonably competent driver.

Come and see the expert team at Caldicott Lawyers for assistance in your matter.