SA passes ‘ultra high-powered vehicle’ licence category

The new laws will apply to high power-to-weight ratio cars


n an Australian first, South Australia is set to introduce special licence category for cars above a prescribed power-to-weight ratio.

The amendment passed through the State Parliament earlier this month, which was drafted in response to the 2019 death of 15-year-old pedestrian Sophia Naismith.

A new licence class will apply for motorists who drive ‘ultra high-powered vehicles,’ which have a power-to-weight ratio of 276kW per tonne or higher. A new offence will also apply to drivers who disable automated safety systems (such as traction control) on ultra high-powered vehicles, attracting a fine of up to $5000. For reference, an HSV GTS-R W1 produces around 256kW per tonne.

A mid-tier indictable offence will also be introduced, for causing death or serious harm by careless use of a vehicle or vessel. In effect, it will raise the maximum penalty from 12 months to five years imprisonment for a basic offence, or to seven years for an aggravated offence – which may include driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and will require a court to impose a minimum three-year licence disqualification.

In a statement, SA Attorney-General Kyam Maher said the laws will rectify “serious problems” with existing road laws, where conduct may not meet the requirements for a dangerous driving charge but “warrants tougher penalties than those available at the lower level of offending.

“In addition, these reforms will ensure people who drive ultra high-powered vehicles take greater responsibility for their actions while making sure that authorities have the power to prosecute those who flout our road laws and put others’ lives at risk.”

According to Maher, about 200 models will be covered by the law, and “training” will be required to earn the licence category. Further specifics are not yet public, though the category is expected to be fully established in the next few months.