Death of Emmett Teens May Push Driving Bill into Law

Story Created: Mar 2, 2007

By Michelle DeGrand

BOISE - The accident in Emmett involved a 15 year old driver with four young passengers. Although those factors may have nothing to do with the crash, the senate bill, which was brought forth well before the crash ever happened, focuses on related issues.

Senate Bill 1119 would give young drivers more behind-the-wheel instruction time and limit how many passengers they can have in the car with them.

"Let's turn right here," instructs Jeff Coe, a Driver's Education Instructor with the Boise School District.

Madison Altorfer is the 9th grader behind the wheel. She is just two weeks away from finishing her driver's education course. At 15, she's the same age as the driver of a car that plunged into a pond and killed five Emmett teens Tuesday.

"It's been a topic of conversation in the car all week," said Coe.

"That was really terrible," said Altorfer of the crash, "and it probably would have helped if they would have had a little bit more experience in driving."

There's no way to tell just what caused the driver to run off the road in Emmett, but Idaho lawmakers are considering a bill that focuses on two issues key to the crash.

Senate Bill 1119 would add more instructional time behind the wheel for new drivers, and limit the number of passengers they can have in the car to one.

"Maybe the situation that they were in, that accident would have happened whether they had 6 months or 16 months or 30 months," said Coe, "but more experience doesn't hurt anyone."

And Coe feels the timing of the fatal accident will push the bill into Idaho law.

"I think the legislation is going to pass for sure and it might have passed anyway, but I feel that the timing of everything, that it will sail right on through and I think it's good that it's passing," Coe said.

If the bill does pass, not much will change in Madison's home.

"It's a rule for our house that when you first start driving you're not allowed to drive with anyone else," said Madison's father Paul Altorfer.

And instructors like Coe, who know well the dangers of the road, hope even if the bill doesn't pass those five Emmett teens didn't die in vain.

"If anything positive can come out of this I hope it's that these kids will remember what happened in Emmett and carry that with them for a long time," said Coe.

AAA came out with a recent study that found 38 percent fewer teen traffic deaths in states that had the toughest teen driving laws. Local AAA officials said they approached the legislature with ideas to help lower Idaho's teen crash numbers and came up with Senate Bill 1119.