Something is entirely wrong with a system that allows for this.
Andrew J. Johnson, 29, of Decatur, has been involved in two wrecks that killed three people in 68 days. On Sept. 4, authorities said, he drove his pickup in front of a couple on U.S. 51 in Macon. Phil Jacobs, 80, of Pana, who was in the other vehicle, died eight days later from injuries. His wife, Norma Jean Jacobs, was injured.
On Nov. 11, the grain-hauling semitruck Johnson was driving went across another section of U.S. 51 — this time near Clinton — and into the path of another car traveling north on the highway. Tony and Karen Hable — both 57, of Clinton, and were active in their community and their church — died.
So why was Johnson able to drive after the first crash that claimed a life?
Because even though Johnson was convicted of failure to yield on Sept. 28 for the first wreck and paid a $413 fine, the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office never got the accident report from the Illinois Department of Transportation. That meant they didn’t start the process to take away his license.
IDOT doesn’t know what happened. Neither does the Secretary of State's office.
That in itself demonstrates a major flaw in the reporting system. But there’s even a more troubling aspect to this: Although state law says anyone convicted of a moving violation that killed someone is supposed to have his or her license revoked “immediately,” driving privileges aren’t taken away until 90 days after the Secretary of state’s office mails a notification letter.
If someone is dangerous behind the wheel, why does the system allow 90 days to elapse?
In Johnson’s case, the Secretary of State's office never got the opportunity to revoke the license before the second wreck took place.
The report arrived more than a month after Johnson was issued the ticket in the Macon crash, and the day after the Decatur Herald & Review requested information about the status of the license. Only then was it technically revoked.
Secretary of State Jesse White is “outraged at the reckless behavior by Mr. Johnson that took the lives of three people,” a spokesman said.
He should be.
We all should be.
These crashes involved the same highway and the same situation involving Johnson pulling in front another vehicle. Johnson’s lawyer has refused to comment about the circumstances surrounding the deaths. There could be an explanation.
But there is no clear reason why — at least not yet — it took so long for Johnson's license to be taken away. A flawed system allowed two more deaths to happen.
We hope the Secretary of State’s office and IDOT have some answers.