Morgan Zukowski was driving 35 mph, approaching a blind curve in the road, when she started to text.
Before the 16-year-old can finish typing "I love you mom," she slammed into the vehicle in front of her.
Had this been an actual rear-end collision, Zukowski, her passengers and the people in the other car could have been seriously hurt or killed.
Instead, she was behind the wheel of a computerized simulator learning about the dangers of distracted driving.
"I feel like I should now put my cellphone in the glove compartment, so I won't be tempted," said Zukowski, a senior at Lee Middle and High School.
Simulator instructor Robert Bliss told Zukowski the "textident" -- an accident caused by texting -- was inevitable.
"The decision to crash was made when you picked up the phone," he said.
Zukowski is among the 70 high school drivers from Lee and Lenox enrolled this week in "Distractology 101: A Crash Course in Distracted Driving." Through Friday, Arbella Insurance Group has its distracted driver simulator parked at Lee Middle and High School, courtesy of Toole Insurance Agency of Lee.
Newly licensed students or those with a driver's permit were eligible to sign up for the 45-minute session that puts the teenagers in several situations of distracted driving. Toole is sponsoring the high-tech driver's education class
"We've become so addicted to our cellphones," noted Christine Chiaretta of Toole Insurance. "Texting and driving is supposed to be as bad as having a 0.08."
Chiaretta was referring to the blood-alcohol content at which a driver is legally drunk in Massachusetts. She noted distracted driving also includes eating, drinking and turning to talk with passengers in the car.
Since 2009, about 5,000 high school students from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island have strapped into Arbella's simulator, nearly all saying the experience would help them become a safer driver, according to an Arbella survey.
Add to that list Liz Kastrinakis.
"It actually is going to make me change my mind about texting and driving," said the 17-year-old senior.
"The younger generation is more aware of texting and driving, so it hits close to home for the kids," added Bliss. "It's all about mitigating the risks of the road."
Will Zeininger, a junior, said he never tried texting and driving until he tried the multitasking maneuver in the simulator that led to a crash.
"I thought I could [text and drive], because everyone else I see makes it look so easy," he said.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233
Inside the numbers ...
3,331 and 387,000: number of deaths and injuries, respectively, caused by distracted driving in 2011.
11: percentage of all drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes due to distracted driving.
4.6: average number of seconds a driver is distracted by a text; the equivalent of driving 55 mph the length of a football field -- blindfolded.
Source: National Transportation Traffic Safety Administration