Minister starts petition after niece’s texting death

Posted at 11:54 AM, Jan 25, 2012
and last updated 2012-02-26 12:40:31-05

RICHMOND, Va, (WTVR) – Lawmakers that want the General Assembly to pass legislation to ban texting while driving in the state have a new advocate.

Minister Tracy Whitlock, whose niece was killed in a crash police was caused by speed texting last week, is joining the fight to make sure the legislation passes.

"I'm having sleepless nights at this time," said Whitlock.  "I didn't move. I was just praying -- even though the traffic started to move. I just pulled over."

The violent images of the crash on the Chippenham Parkway that killed 27-year-old Toure Thaniel, Whitlock's niece, and her 22-year-old friend, have shaken the minister to his core.

Whitlock remembered Thaniel was an aspiring model and a very sweet girl.

The weight of the tragedy is prompting Whitlock to take action.

In fact, Whitlock started a petition drive to get folks to push state lawmakers to stiffen the penalties for driving while texting.

Additionally, Whitlock supports a bill moving through the General Assembly to make texting or emailing behind the wheel a primary offense.

However, some critics argue the legislation could dilute a more serious charge like reckless driving.

No matter the outcome, Whitlock wants to make a difference.

"I feel bad that this happened to my family.  I don't want to see it happen to any more families," he said.