A drunk driver whose teenage friend died in a road crash at Glanville has pleaded with the Adelaide District Court to spare him a jail term.

Christopher Robert Gordon, 19, pleaded guilty to aggravated charges of causing death and harm by dangerous driving and to other driving offences.

In February last year, Luke Gill, 18, was killed when Gordon crashed his utility into a stobie pole.

The court heard Mr Gill fell from the tray of the utility to the ground.

He had been in the tray despite a seat and seatbelt being available inside the vehicle.

Gordon's blood alcohol reading was more than three times the legal limit, the court was told.

Fighting back tears, he told the judge he was living with the pain of what he had done and owed it to Mr Gill to make the most of his life.

"I'd just like to express how sorry I am. I live with this every day and just want the opportunity to make everything better, the opportunity for the life of Luke," he said.

'Immature and tragic'

Defence lawyer Alf Strappazzon said Gordon had behaved responsibly earlier the same night.

He said Gordon went to his friend's house at Ethelton for a birthday party and a group of 10 friends took a mini-bus to a bar at Henley Beach.

Mr Strappazzon said Gordon and two others later went by taxi back to the Ethelton home and Gordon offered to take his friends home because they were planning to ride their bicycles.

He said Gordon's decision to drive after the three had been drinking heavily was immature and tragic.

"To say the defendant is remorseful is somewhat of an understatement. He now appreciates the dangers of driving while intoxicated," the court heard.

"The defendant totally blames himself for the accident and its consequences. He was the young man with the keys in his hand, who put the keys in the ignition.

"His life has changed forever. He thinks about the crash and its consequences every day. He concedes he owes it to the deceased Luke Gill to live his life to the best possible. Anything otherwise would be to disrespect the memory of Luke Gill."

The prosecution said the courts too often heard of people in similar circumstances and there was a need for a sentence which upheld the issue of general deterrence.

It said Gordon should be jailed but it was within the court's discretion to consider imposing a non-parole period shorter than the mandatory four-fifths of the head sentence, given Gordon's early guilty plea and remorse.

Gordon will be sentenced next month.