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Laura Cranfill of Copperas Cove sits at her son’s grave and remembers past holidays she spent with both of her children before their car was hit by a drunk driver.
Although it has been 10 years since the accident, Cranfill remembers it like it was yesterday. Her life was forever changed.
Cranfill and her daughter, Katie, 10, and son, Tyler, 12, were traveling through Tennessee on their way to visit family in Indiana when their car was hit by a drunk driver.
“I don’t remember the wreck or the car coming. Police reports say he was traveling at 93 MPH when he crossed the median and hit us,” Cranfill said. “His blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. He was drunk.”
Tyler, who was asleep, was killed. The drunk driver and his passenger were both killed. Katie was lying down asleep in the backseat and was cocooned in blankets. Her position in the car most likely saved her life, but Cranfill fought for hers.
“I just remember driving through Tennessee and waking up 10 days later in the hospital,” Cranfill said.
Cranfill was in a drug-induced coma undergoing 15 surgeries within the first nine days as doctors inserted rods, pins and screws throughout her body.
“My jaw was wired shut. I had a rod in my right arm. I was not able to write or speak. I was only able to nod,” Cranfill said. “I was unconscious for so long that I did not get to go to Tyler’s funeral. I did not get to say goodbye.”
Retired State Policeman John Vander-Werff of Copperas Cove said nearly 50 percent of those who die in traffic crashes involving a drinking driver with a blood alcohol count of .01 percent or higher are people other than the drinking driver.
“The dangers of driving while intoxicated are myriad, the worst, of course being death or serious bodily injury,” Vander-Werff said. “Many people other than the drinking drivers are killed in (these) crashes.”
He said intoxicated drivers may display signs of rapid acceleration or braking, tailgating, drifting in and out of traffic lanes and inappropriate signaling.
Cranfill is now permanently disabled. Although Katie survived the wreck, she suffered permanent injuries.
“She cannot play basketball because of the stress fractures. Her body just can’t take it,” Cranfill said. “The accident took away her childhood. She never had a chance to be with Tyler. She was raised as an only child from age 10.”
Today, Cranfill speaks at high schools and on victim advocate panels for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“Society is so acceptable of people taking a couple of drinks and then driving. We need to change our thinking,” Cranfill said.
“You never think you’re going to be involved in a drinking-related accident. But drunk driving does affect other innocent people whose lives you will change forever. It happened to us in less than two seconds.”