Trucker In Amtrak Collision Losing License
April 2, 1999
After begrudgingly returning a full driver's license to trucker John Stokes after his probationary period was up, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has found a way to suspend Stokes' CDL for two months.
Stokes, the driver whose steel-loaded rig caused an Amtrak train to derail last month in a deadly collision, will lose his truck-driving privileges for two months starting in June. He will still be allowed to drive his car.
The suspension is a result of two speeding violations Stokes had within six months of each other last year, one near Kankakee, IL, and one in Indiana. The ticket from Kankakee had not been forwarded to the secretary of state's office until after he learned of it through news reports — after White had returned Stoke's license March 25.
A two-month suspension is the toughest penalty the state can impose under Illinois law.
Stokes' license had been under suspension at the time of the March 15 crash, which killed 11 people. He had been allowed to drive under a probationary license during the suspension after taking a driving course. That suspension ended March 25. After discovering that Stokes had a long history of traffic citations and accidents, White's office tried to find a way to extend the suspension, but could not legally do so - until it learned of the additional citation near Kankakee.
Stokes has not been charged in the accident, and says he was already moving across the railroad crossing before warning lights started flashing. Investigators have been unable to determine yet what happened that night; witnesses have given possibly conflicting statements about whether or not Stokes tried to go around the warning gates.