'Idiot' drivers dice with death on Hunter roads

POLICE fear a small group of ‘‘idiots’’ are putting the lives of countless families at risk on Hunter roads.

Despite encouraging figures showing the majority of motorists are heeding the warnings and the threat of double demerits, a 24-hour period over the Easter holiday weekend has left police flabbergasted at the behaviour of a small few.

The allegations include drunk learner drivers and motorcyclists, disqualified drivers blowing six times the legal blood-alcohol limit and one motorist doing more than 100km/h over the limit on the Newcastle bypass.

‘‘Every example has the ingredients for incidents where people die and they are mixing with families who are trying to enjoy the holidays,’’ Senior Sergeant Bill Darnell said yesterday.

‘‘Innocent people die and, with the examples we have seen across the Hunter in the past few days, it has only been good luck that these idiots have been caught before they have killed someone.’’

Operation Tortoise began on Thursday in a wave of publicity about increased police patrols and double demerit points for infringements during the notoriously deadly Easter long weekend.

After three days, the overall Hunter figures showed a noticeable drop in drink-drivers (21 this year compared with 61 for the same period last year), speeding fines (492 compared with 633) and seatbelt infringements (18 compared with 30).

But during a shocking 24 hours on Friday, police allege:

?a disqualified driver registered a blood alcohol reading of 0.300 in an unregistered and uninsured vehicle in Brisbane Water local area command;

?a learner motorcyclist was clocked at 137km/h in an 80km/h zone before blowing 0.177 in Tuggerah Lakes local area command;

?a motorist was clocked at 192km/h in a 90km/h zone on the Newcastle bypass at Hillsborough;

?a learner driver was clocked at 132km/h in an 80km/h zone on the Pacific Highway at Heatherbrae;

?a motorist was clocked at 147km/h in a 90km/h zone on Nelson Bay Road at Bobs Farm; and

?an unaccompanied learner driver registered a blood alcohol reading of 0.175 with three juveniles in the car on Cessnock Road at Gillieston Heights.

‘‘This is a few days that probably capture what happens on our roads every day,’’ Senior Sergeant Darnell said.

‘‘But you would think that with the increased profile this police operation has had that maybe drivers would think it best to lay low and stay under the radar.

‘‘Any one of these could have so easily become a tragedy.’’

Highway patrol officers also allegedly discovered five kilograms of cannabis in a car at Edgeworth after its two occupants fled when they were pulled over by police.

Operation Tortoise concludes tonight.

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