What are Jackknife Accidents?
Jackknife accidents occur when the trailer, or rear portion of a semi-truck, swings to the side of the cab, creating a 90 degree angle between the two pieces. Due to their construction, all commercial trucks are at risk of jackknifing. Trucks that have been loaded with heavy cargoes are, however, the most likely to be involved in this kind of accident, especially if a driver reduces speed all at once. Drastically reducing one’s speed, when operating a commercial truck, will stop the cab, but won’t necessarily prevent the trailer from stopping. When this happens and the trailer keeps moving forward, pivoting where it connects to the cab, the result will be a jackknife accident.
Why are Jackknife Accidents So Dangerous?
Jackknife accidents, while they may seem less dangerous than other types of crashes, can actually have devastating consequences for other drivers who may be struck by the trailer as it swings out into traffic. Jackknifing trucks are also dangerous because they have a high risk of overturning, which can cause cargo spills, as well as multi-vehicle crashes. These kinds of accidents almost always result in serious injury and significant property damage.
What Causes Jackknife Accidents?
Most jackknife accidents are the result of driver error (i.e. a truck driver suddenly hitting the brakes). There are a variety of other factors, however, that can contribute to these kinds of crashes. Jackknife accidents are, for instance, more likely to occur on winding roads, where sudden decreases in speed happen more often. Other factors that make these kinds of rashes more likely include:
- Poor road conditions, such as wet pavement, potholes, or crumbling asphalt;
- Heavy traffic, which can result in drivers attempting to brake too quickly;
- Defective equipment, like the sudden failure of a truck’s braking system;
- Improperly loaded cargo; and
- Poor weather conditions, which can cause the road to become dangerously slick and can also impede visibility.
While drivers of passenger-sized vehicles can attempt to avoid these kinds of crashes by ensuring that there is plenty of room between themselves and any commercial trucks in their vicinity, this is by no means a guarantee of safety. Fortunately, motorists who are injured in jackknife accidents can often recover damages from the at-fault driver or the responsible trucking company for their losses.