The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires that commercial truckers take a 30-minute rest break after eight consecutive hours of driving. Many in West Virginia and across the U.S. complain that this rule is inflexible and that the result is more truckers speeding to meet deadlines. Some also say that if they could drive straight through their 11-hour shift, they would not be so drowsy by the end.

These complaints come in the wake of a recent increase in large-truck fatalities. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 4,761 people, including about 1,300 truckers, were killed in large-truck crashes in 2017. That’s 392 more lives than the previous year. It also marks a 29-year high.

Trucking industry representatives like the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association believe in a link between inflexible HOS rules and the rise in fatalities. The FMCSA, however, denies this. Either way, there are other important factors to consider, one being the lack of rest areas and truck stops. Most crashes involving a drowsy trucker occur at least 20 miles from a rest stop.

Distracted driving, especially texting and driving, is a growing problem. The use of driver-assist features like adaptive cruise control can even backfire and make drivers complacent by taking their attention from the road. Possible solutions include driver analytics software and safety tech like automatic emergency braking.

Someone who is injured by a drowsy, impaired or distracted trucker may be eligible for damages. They will want to hire a truck accident attorney since trucking companies will have their own legal team working hard to deny the claim. An attorney could bring in a network of professionals, including investigators and physicians, to gather proof of negligence and determine the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries. Legal counsel could then negotiate for a settlement, litigating as a last resort.