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Grim Presentation Shows Youth Dangers of Driving Drunk

July 31, 2007 — The seventh annual Teen Summit came to a close on St. Croix Monday with a plea from organizers to increase the minimum drinking age in the territory to 21.
Unity Coalition, the group that organizes the summit, held a town meeting Monday at the UVI Cafetorium to give information and state its case against underage drinking. Guest speaker Amina O'Flaherty gave the audience a graphic view of the consequences of underage drinking with a slide-show presentation of the aftermath of her brush with death.
At age 19, after a night of drinking and partying in Florida, O'Flaherty was involved in a head-on collision that killed her boyfriend, injured a pedestrian and seriously injured other passengers in the car, including her. The slide show included scenes of her in the hospital undergoing life-saving treatments.
"She had three brain operations," said O'Flaherty’s mother, Allyson Parsons. "Doctors had to remove a part of her skull because her brain was swelling and there was pressure."
Today O'Flaherty has a permanent shunt in her brain to drain fluids that continuously build up there. "She has lost one quarter of her brain capacity and she is partially paralyzed on the left side," Parsons said.
A panel of prevention specialists and an audience of about 60 people debated whether 18-year-olds should be barred from drinking despite having acquired to right to vote, drive and serve in the military. Also on the table was the establishment of an open-container law.
Unlike many locations around the U.S., the territory sets the legal age for drinking alcoholic beverages at 18 and does not have an open-container law, allowing residents to carry alcoholic beverages on the street and in vehicles, although is it illegal to be drunk while driving.
The three-member panel included the administrator of the V.I. Office of Highway Safety, Barbara Jackson-McIntosh; Unity President Annette Scott; and Sen. Terrence “Positive” Nelson.
The forums and the summit over the weekend are important in spreading the message of healthy lifestyles, said Fernando Webster Jr., Unity program coordinator. The summit was a success especially because of the partnerships of the VIPD, Law Enforcement Planning Commission, V.I. National Guard, Department of Education and other community groups, he said.
Participants in the summit included more than 90 adolescents ages 12 to 17 along with 150 caregivers and volunteers.
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