"From the minute I walk out the door, I'm completely on the phone with texting," says Chelsea, who received her driver's license four months ago. She estimates that she sends about 5,000 texts a month. "I don't feel afraid that I'm going to get into a car accident while texting because I feel that I'm a good enough texter."
Since Chelsea has been licensed, she has had three accidents due to texting. "I did get pulled over for going 80 in a 55 mile-per-hour zone," she says. "I didn't realize there was a speed change."
"Short of taking [the cell phone] away from her, I don't know how to stop her from actually doing it," says Candace. "I expect to get a phone call and find that she's been in a pretty serious accident because of her text messaging."
Dr. Phil is incredulous. "You'll get in a 5,000 pound missile and go down the street, but you don't want to be distracted from Grey's Anatomy?" he asks.
"Yeah," Chelsea replies.
"OK, that makes sense," Dr. Phil says cynically. He turns to Candace. "You've taken her phone away. What did she do?"
"What if something important happens? Then I don't have my phone; I don't know what's going on," Chelsea tells Dr. Phil. "What if I have to call my grandma? What if I'm driving without my phone and something bad were to happen?"
Dr. Phil reviews some "important" messages that Chelsea has received. "Text from your friend, Matt: 'Let's go cow tipping,'" he reads. "From your friend, Katie: 'It's really hard to brush your teeth with your left hand. Try it' ... Come on, this is frivolous crap. If you're going 60 miles an hour, how far does a car go in a second?"
"Far?" she replies, uncertain.
Observing that Chelsea has only had her license for four months, Dr. Phil says, "You've hit a curb because you forgot to shift gears while you were texting, and did $3,000 worth of damage to the car."
"Not what you told me," Candace says, giving her daughter a look of disappointment.
"You nearly hit a person on the street with your little sister in the car because you were texting," Dr. Phil continues. "You received a $164 ticket for going 80 in a 55, and you were texting and didn't notice the [speed] change. You also drifted forward and hit a guard rail."
"Yeah, but I barely scratched it," Chelsea clarifies. "I know I shouldn't but, like, it really is addicting. You can't get a text message and not look at it."
"You can if you don't have a phone," Dr. Phil retorts.
"Yeah, absolutely," she replies.
"Do you, as a parent, have the ability to stop that?"
"I would hope that I would, but I think that's why we're here today. Short of taking her phone away from her, what am I supposed to do?" she asks. "Children rely on those phones. In today's society, as parents, we rely on those phones too, to make sure that our kids are safe, to make sure that they've arrived where they need to arrive."
Dr. Phil cites some sobering statistics. A recent Harris poll says that 91 percent of Americans believe sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a couple of drinks.
"The simulator actually will pick up on mistakes while being distracted by whatever it is and take off points," says Andre Luongo, Vice President of Operations for Product Management, Virtual Driver Interactive.
"I don't think it's very fair," Chelsea complains after the test. "It's not like my car. I can drive my car, but I'm not going to be able to drive on the computer, obviously, because it's an automatic. I don't drive an automatic; I drive a stick shift. I don't know how they grade, but the test did not do anything to change my mind on how I drive."
"How long was the test?" Candace asks.
"They're measured on every infraction. As you can see, she had many in only 10 minutes," Andre explains. "You need a 70 to pass this normal training course and hers was well below that."
"It was a computer game," Chelsea insists.
"She doesn't have the ability to predict the consequences of her actions. That should be obvious to you," Dr. Phil tells Candace.
"You absolutely do not have the right to turn this kid lose in a car if she continues to do what she's doing," Dr. Phil warns Candace. "That means she can get in the floor, she can crawl on her hands and knees, and cry and throw up and all of that, but you know what? She'll get over it."
He advises Candace to purchase a cell phone plan where she receives a phone log of her daughter's text messages. "She would be using smoke signals before I would give [the phone] back to her if she violates the rules," he says sternly.