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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

What Can You Do to Avoid Jackknife Accidents? – Prevention Tips Every Driver Should Know

Even if it is already in progress, jackknifing is often evitable. Several prevention tips and safety strategies can help drivers avoid accidents.

Unfortunately, accidents involving a truck jackknifing on the highway are common. Many people will hear about these stories every so often on the news.

According to a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 10% of semi-truck occupant deaths and 4% of non-truck occupant fatalities resulted from a jackknife crash.

No one wants to be involved in a jackknife wreck. It is one of the deadliest scenarios that can happen on the road. Luckily, there are many ways to prevent these accidents.

Here's more information about jackknifing, how drivers can prevent this type of crash, and what people should do if they are involved in truck accidents.

What Is a Tractor-Trailer Jackknife Accident?

Essentially, a jackknife crash is a type of truck accident that occurs when the vehicle's cabin and attached trailer get out of alignment.

As a result, the trailer swings around beside the cabin and folds the truck in half, forming a V or L shape. It resembles the closing action of a pocket knife.

Most jackknife accidents occur when a semi-truck is backing up or braking.

Common Causes of Jackknifing

Common Causes of Jackknifing

Accelerating when taking a turn is one of the main causes of these accidents. This causes the truck to skid and the trailer to veer off its path, swinging towards the cab in a V or L shape.

However, other factors can cause jackknifing, including the following:

  • Losing traction

  • Braking suddenly

  • Carrying an empty trailer

  • Backing up improperly

  • Improper braking on slick or wet pavement

  • Loading trailers improperly

Can Drivers Avoid Jackknife Accidents?

Both experienced truck drivers and non-professional operators of vehicles towing a car are vulnerable to jackknife crashes.

However, drivers can usually prevent these collisions, even in dangerous conditions. It only takes a few safe driving tips. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also provide insight on what you can do to avoid rollover accidents.

Checking Their Mirrors

Truck drivers must ensure the trailer is not swinging wildly. If it is making sideways motions, the risk of a jackknife accident is higher. Therefore, operators should brake slowly and gradually.

If they check their mirrors, drivers can tell if they are careful enough while driving with the trailer in the back.

As mentioned, jackknifing is avoidable even if it is in progress. If it is already happening, drivers should let the brake go to help the trailer wheels resume rolling and regain traction.

Sometimes, when the trailer is jackknifing, increasing speed can make it fall back into place, avoiding a crash.

Carrying Heavy Loads

Truck drivers must also be careful with their loads. If they are too light, vehicles are more susceptible to jackknifing.

Contrastingly, heavier loads make trucks less vulnerable to jackknifing, as the weight keeps the trailer aligned.

Truck brakes have been designed to stop full loads. Therefore, they are too powerful for vehicles that are underweight.

As a result, applying the brakes during an emergency, including jackknifing, means they can lock up and make the truck skid.

Braking Gradually

When driving trucks, braking suddenly is dangerous. Operators must avoid scenarios that may cause them to slam on their brakes. Otherwise, these large vehicles are more vulnerable to jackknifing.

Here are a few safety recommendations that a truck driver should consider:

  • Driving a safe distance behind other vehicles means operators will have more time to react and avoid accidents.

  • It is crucial to slow down as the truck approaches curves.

  • Drivers should reduce their speed gradually when driving downhill or when the road is slippery. Ideally, they should spread their braking over a long distance.

  • Performing proper maintenance can also reduce the risk of a jackknife accident.

In addition, drivers must ensure their trucks' components are in excellent condition to handle emergencies. Uneven brakes and faulty suspension are associated with higher jackknifing risk.

Using Anti-Jackknifing Technology

Besides driving techniques, truck operators can use technology to avoid jackknife accidents, including anti-lock brakes.

These devices equip trucks with sensors that detect heavy braking, preventing the wheels from locking up. When a driver slams on their brakes too much, which results in over-braking, these sensors kick in.

The main purpose of these sensors is to decrease the brake pressure on the wheel to stabilize the truck and avoid skidding.

In addition, truck drivers can equip their vehicles with load-sensing regulators, which have been designed to reduce brake pressure on the wheel if they are carrying light loads.

A fifth wheel and a swing-limiting device can also reduce the risk of a jackknife accident. Both can prevent the tractor and trailer from folding too far into each other.

Other Jackknifing Prevention Tips

Other Jackknifing Prevention Tips

In order to avoid a jackknife collision, an experienced truck driver must:

  • Check their mirrors for trailer swing or trailer sway and adjust their speed accordingly

  • Be aware that empty trailers are lighter and more likely to lose contact with the ground while in motion

  • Brake before entering a turn

  • Avoid slamming the brakes if the trailer is swinging

  • Let off the brake to help the wheels regain traction if the tractor-trailer has started to jackknifing

  • Increase the speed gently to help the trailer return to alignment if it is swaying

  • Avoid stamping on the brake pedal if they must make an emergency stop

  • Place one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn around to check how the tractor-trailer is backing up

Final Thoughts

When a tractor-trailer jackknifes, the outcome is often catastrophic. Victims often sustain severe injuries, and all drivers involved suffer huge losses. In the worst-case scenario, someone even loses their life. However, these accidents are preventable.

Both the trucking company and the vehicle's driver must ensure the tractor-trailer is in excellent condition and follow safety precautions to avoid collisions. Can answer questions like, "What can you do to avoid wide turn accidents?"

Should Victims Contact an Attorney?

While jackknife accidents are preventable, they are common. An inexperienced truck driver can make a mistake on the road and cause a crash.

Many trucking companies and drivers are also negligent and do not know the best practices for operating commercial vehicles safely and avoiding accidents. Therefore, those injured due to these parties' careless actions can seek help from professional Toledo semi truck accident lawyers to file a claim and get the compensation they deserve.

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys offer the guidance truck accident victims need after this tough experience. This law firm's team goes to war for clients and fights for their rights.

Contact an experienced lawyer from Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys and get a free consultation today!


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