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Unregistered and uninsured vehicles

These offences (and the defences available to them) reinforce that it is the owner's responsibility to ensure vehicles are registered and insured.

Unregistered vehicles

It is an offence to do any of the following:

  • drive an unregistered vehicle;
  • allow an unregistered vehicle to stand on a road; or
  • own an unregistered vehicle which is driven or found standing on a road.

Due to the broad definition of a "road", which includes any place the public has access to, many people unknowingly commit an offence. For example, riding an unregistered off-road motor cycle on a reserve may be an offence.

Penalty

A fine of up to $7500 [Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA) ss 9(1), 9(3)].

Defences for drivers

It is a defence if you drove the vehicle or allowed it to stand in prescribed circumstances and you did not know that it was unregistered [see s 9(1a)]. It is also a defence if you were the driver, but not the owner of the vehicle, and you did not know, and could not have reasonably be expected to have known, that the vehicle was unregistered [see s 9(1c)].

Defences for owners

It is a defence if you did not drive or leave the vehicle standing on the road and you took reasonable steps to ensure that any person lawfully entitled to use the vehicle would have been aware that it was unregistered [see s 9(4a)]. It is also a defence if your vehicle was driven or left standing on the road because of an unlawful act, such as theft [s 9(5)], or you were the last registered owner but were nolonger the owner at the time of the alleged offence [see s 9(6)].

Power-assisted bicycles

There are two categories of power-assisted bicycles – one of which falls within the definition of a bicycle and can be legally ridden on South Australian roads; the other being illegal to drive on a public road in South Australia.

Generally, a power assisted bicycle will meet the definition of a bicycle if the main means of propulsion is by pedal power and the motor produces no more than 200 watts; Pedalec bikes also meet the definition of a bicycle but have a motor capacity of 250 watts. Electric power assisted bikes look like an ordinary bike, have an adjustable seat and an electric assistance motor. In addition they must have a clear label certifying them as complying with the nationally accepted standards for electric bicycles (see Cyclists).

Petrol powered bikes (also referred to as petrol assisted) cannot be lawfully driven on roads in South Australia. Any vehicle that does not meet the definition of a bicycle must be registered as a motor vehicle and insured.

Petrol powered/assisted bikes cannot be registered (or insured). This means that driving such a vehicle on the roads can result in a charges of driving an unregistered and uninsured vehicle.

Exemptions

A motor vehicle may be driven without registration under section 12B of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA) if being driven for the purpose of extinguishing or controlling a fire that is a risk to persons, animals or property - but only if public liability insurance is held indemnifying the owner and any authorised driver for death or injury caused by the use of the vehicle on roads. The amount of public liability insurance must be in an amount of at least $5 million.

Uninsured vehicles

It is an offence to do any of the following:

  • drive an uninsured vehicle;
  • allow an uninsured vehicle to stand on a road (i.e. any place with public access); or
  • own an uninsured vehicle which is driven or found standing on a road.

An uninsured vehicle is defined as a vehicle that is not covered by compulsory third party insurance. This insurance automatically applies with the registration of a vehicle and continues until thirty days after the registration expires.

Penalty

A fine of up to $10000 [Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA) ss 102(1), 102(2)].

Power assisted bicycles

As discussed above, only those bicycles that meet the definition of a bicycle (including an electric power assisted bicycle up to 200 watts or a Pedalec with capacity up to 250 watts) are exempt from having to be registered and insured. Bicycles running on petrol powered motors are not included in the exemption for registration and insurance. Riding such a bike can therefore result in a charge of driving uninsured (and driving unregistered).

Defences for drivers

It is a defence if you drove the vehicle or allowed it to stand in prescribed circumstances and you did not know that the vehicle was uninsured [see s 102(1a)]. It is also a defence if you were the driver but not the owner of the vehicle and you did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known that the vehicle was uninsured [see s 102(9c)].

Defences for owners

It is a defence if you did not drive or leave the vehicle standing on the road and you took reasonable steps to ensure that any person lawfullly entitled to use the vehicle would have been aware that he vehicle was uninsured [see s 102(3aa)]. It is also a defence if your vehicle was driven or left standing on the road because of an unlawful act, such as theft [s 102(3a)], or you were the last registered owner but were no longer the owner at the time of the alleged offence [see s 102(3b)].

Detection by speed and traffic cameras

Speed and red light cameras can be used to detect unregistered and uninsured vehicles.

Where an expiation notice is issued as a result of detection by a speed or red light camera, any subsequent offences committed within seven days of the commission of the offence are subsumed by the first offence (i.e. not counted as separate offences) [see Motor Vehicle Act 1959 (SA) sch 1 s 2(1)]. This is in recognition of the fact that there will be a lapse of time between the commission of the offence and the driver being notified of it. However, where a driver is charged with an offence of drive unregistered or drive uninsured by expiation notice, any subsequent offences committed after this are counted as separate offences (not subsumed) [see sch 1 s 2(2)].

Exemptions

A motor vehicle may be driven without insurance under section 12B of the Motor Vehicles Act 1959 (SA) if being driven for the purpose of extinguishing or controlling a fire that is a risk to persons, animals or property - but only if public liability insurance is held indemnifying the owner and any authorised driver for death or injury caused by the use of the vehicle on roads. The amount of public liability insurance must be in an amount of at least $5 million.

Unregistered and uninsured vehicles  :  Last Revised: Thu Sep 24th 2015
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.