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Jackknifing and How to Prevent It

While no one wants to be involved in a road accident, certain types of crashes are just more terrifying than others.

Imagine being on a highway and seeing an 18-wheel semi lose control and its trailer starting to swing out to one side.

That is the kind of stuff nightmares are made out of, and that is what jackknifing is.

While truck crashes are one of the most dangerous auto accidents, a jackknife wreck is one of the deadliest scenarios that could happen on the road.

Here’s what you need to know about jackknifing, how to prevent it, and what victims of such an accident can do.

What Is a Jackknife Accident?

A jackknife crash is a trucking accident that occurs when the truck skids and loses control, and the trailer leaves its alignment and spins towards the cab and collides with it.

That usually results in a devastating crash that is often deadly for truck drivers and other road users.

What Causes Jackknifing?

This accident usually happens when a truck driver accelerates too much while taking a turn, causing the truck to skid.

Consequently, the trailer veers off its path and swings towards the cabin in an L or V shape.

It resembles a knife whose blade folds into the handle, thus the name.

How to Avoid It

Be Careful When Carrying Light Loads.

Trucks carrying heavier loads are less susceptible to jackknifing since the weight helps in keeping the trailer aligned. 

With light or empty trailers, however, you need to be more careful. 

Remember that the truck’s brakes are meant to stop full loads and are, therefore, too powerful for an underweight truck. 

Thus, when you apply them during such an emergency, they are likely to lock up and cause the truck to skid.

Brake Gradually

Braking suddenly, especially when driving large trucks, is a dangerous affair. 

Thus, it would be best to avoid scenarios that could cause you to slam on your brakes. A few pointers include:

  • Drive a safe distance behind others so you can have time to react.
  • When driving downhill or on slippery roads, reduce your speed gradually by spreading your braking over a long distance.
  • Slow down as you approach curves.
  • Proper Maintenance

Always ensure that all your truck’s components are in excellent condition to handle all kinds of emergencies.

Faulty or uneven brakes and suspension will only raise your risk of jackknifing.

How to Prevent Jackknifing as a Truck Driver

Avoiding a jackknife accident is everyone’s responsibility, starting with truck drivers.

Suppose you are employed as a commercial trucker. In that case, there is no guarantee you received any training beyond what was required for your commercial driver’s license on how to prevent jackknife accidents.

To prevent a jackknife accident as a commercial truck driver, you should:

  • Watch your mirrors frequently to see if your trailer is swinging or swaying. Adjust your speed or steering direction carefully to stop the trailer’s erratic movements.
  • Be aware that an empty trailer is lighter and, therefore, more likely to lose contact with the ground while in motion and start to jackknife.
  • When rounding a turn, brake before you enter the turn, smaller cars can brake or accelerate during a turn, but this behavior can be hazardous for large tractor-trailers. Ideally, you will only brake while driving in a straight line.
  • If your trailer is starting to swing widely, avoid slamming the brakes. Taking your foot entirely off the brakes can help, assuming it is safe to do so.
  • In some situations, you can correct trailer sway by increasing your speed gradually, adding more to your tractor’s pull strength, and straightening out the trailer. Typically, increasing your speed will not help if the tractor or caravan is shaking or swaying.

Keep in mind that the above jackknife prevention tips also function for non-commercial drivers. 

E.g., if you are towing a small trailer behind your vehicle when you’re on the move, then you should also remember and apply all of these tips.

Jackknifing and How to Prevent It
Jackknifing and How to Prevent It

What to Do If You Are a Jackknife Crash Victim

At Fowler | Helser | Vogt, we understand how being involved in a severe truck accident such as a jackknife crash can be life-changing. 

Legal cases arising from these crashes are usually quite complex, and that is why you need an experienced and dedicated truck accident attorney handling your case.

Enlisting the services of the experienced truck accident attorney 

is likely to determine the outcome of your case.

That is because they know the right questions to ask and have the resources necessary to perform a full investigation.

Have you or a loved one suffered from injuries resulting from a jackknife crash?

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