Drunk driving crash killed my mother’s first husband

Kellen Brauer

GROSSMONT COLLEGE- Every year thousands of people in California and across the United States are killed in drunk driving crashes and leave behind families to grieve over losing them too soon. My family is unfortunately a part of that group.

In 1991, my mother Lori lost her husband and my brother Sean lost his father. Phil Cramer was hit and killed by a drunk driver while bicycling on a frontage road by Interstate 8 just east of Lake Jennings Park Road.

Eighteen-year-old Renee Reed was traveling west at high speeds when she lost control of her vehicle before striking Phil and his friend John as they rode their bicycles.

“John had to be taken to the hospital because he was in shock,” says my mother Lori Brauer. “I found out about Phil’s death when Angie (John’s wife) called and told me what had happened.”

Phil died at the scene and Reed emerged from her car with minor injuries. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.16 which is twice the legal limit.  Renee was underage and not legally permitted to be drinking.

My brother Sean Cramer was only six years old when it happened and never really got to know his father. “I was too young to really understand what happened,” said Sean.

“Renee went to court and was sentenced to 365 days in prison but only served in total about 180 days,” said Lori. “I think it’s good that these types of crashes are getting vehicular manslaughter and second degree murder charges now.”

I was born two years after the crash.  I grew up volunteering to help stop such tragedies from happening. i was prompted to volunteer because my mom was contacted by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) not long after Phil’s death and they helped her through the tough time.

She then began speaking about the crash to audiences for MADD so people will understand that it can happen to anyone. A Victim Impact Panel (VIP) is a court-ordered seminar in which DUI offenders are sent to listen to two or three members of a victim’s family or the victims themselves speak about how much their life has changed.

“It’s a choice to drink and drive,” says Sean.

That’s true because you make a conscious decision before you even start drinking that driving might still be possible while drunk. These horrible tragedies are 100% preventable if people handed their keys to a designated driver or made sure they took a taxi home from the bar.  It’s plain and simple: People who drink alcohol shouldn’t drive.

“I don’t hate alcohol, I even drink it sometimes,” says Lori.

“It’s really when people get reckless that it bothers me,” says Sean.

MADD also has such events like a walk (similar to the Breast Cancer walk) every year not only to help loved ones remember the friends or family they lost, but to raise awareness of the dangers of drinking and driving. They also hold a candle light vigil where loved ones can remember all of the people that are lost too soon.

Renee Reed made a choice that night. One person made a choice that affected an entire family and turned their world upside-down.

A sign was put up at the sight of the crash that reads “Please don’t drink and drive, In memory of Phil Cramer” so that people traveling west on Interstate 8 can see it and understand the destructive path that will ensue if people have been drinking and decide to drive.

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Brauer is news editor of the GC Summit. He may be contacted at [email protected]