Why do big rigs jackknife?

Aerial view of jackknifed semi on highway in snow

One of the most dangerous large truck accidents is a jackknife accident. What makes it so treacherous is that once in motion the truck driver cannot control it. It can crash into anything near it, moving in a very unpredictable way, leaving a trail of damage and possibly injury.

Not all trucks have the potential of jackknifing – only those that are “articulated”, meaning those with a moveable joint. Articulated vehicles include tractor- trailers, trains, trams, and certain cities buses. In a jackknife accident, a trailing section of such a vehicle folds up against the section in front of, much like how a knife folds up.

Causes of jackknife accidents

Most of us have come across a jackknifed vehicle, usually a truck on the highway, around a sharp bend, or when the weather is icy and the roads are slick. Strong winds can also cause jackknifing. Sometimes these types of accidents are unavoidable but most are completely avoidable.

Those that are avoidable are sometimes caused by truck drivers, trucking companies, or companies who are responsible for loading the truck. The following are some reasons why a big rig might jackknife.

  • Failing to properly secure and load cargo
  • Speeding
  • Driving with inadequate training
  • Improper braking
  • Driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Taking turns too quickly
  • Ignoring adverse weather conditions
  • Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Distracted driving

Anti-jackknife technology

Fortunately, technology is available that can help prevent a truck from jackknifing.

  • Anti-lock brakes on a tractor or a trailer, or both, is a good countermeasure for brakes locking up. With anti-lock brakes, vehicles are equipped with sensors that detect unusual heavy braking. When the brakes are slammed on, which could lead to brake locking, the sensors decrease the brake pressure on the wheel.
  • A few different technologies are available that attempt to prevent a tractor and its trailer from folding too far into each other, thus reducing the amount of damage the truck can cause in jackknifing.

As engineers tackle the physics associated with the problems of jackknifing, more and more workable technology is emerging that will eventually render our roads safer.

In the meantime, be sure to know how to drive safely when near a truck. Never pass a truck on the right, never tailgate a truck, don’t driver in a trucker’s blind spot, don’t driver alongside a big rig (pass them or pull back), and always remember that if you can’t see their mirrors, they can’t see you!

Truck accidents are one of my firm’s major areas of expertise. If you’ve been injured in an accident involving a big truck, give me a call so we can discuss your situation. Consultations are always free.

I would appreciate it if you would share this article so that others can benefit from the information. Thank you.
For other areas of personal injury law, please see my other articles at http://blog.petermillerlaw.com

If you have any questions about this article or any area of personal injury law, please refer to the contact info below.

Contact Information:

The Law Offices of Peter Miller

1601 S. Broadway

Little Rock, AR 72206

Phone: 501-374-6300

Email:   pmiller@petermillerlaw.com

Website: http://www.petermillerlaw.com

The content of this blog was prepared by the Law Offices of Peter Miller, P.A. for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Office of Peter Miller, P.A. Attorney-client relationships can only be created by written contract.

Photo courtesy of Maryland National Guard/This image is licensed by Creative Commons/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

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