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The Causes and Dangers of Jackknifing Vehicles

Imagine driving down the highway in your car. You’re travelling at the speed limit, minding your own business, when you see the broad side of a semi trailer to the side of you swinging toward your car. This illustrates the very real danger of jackknifing semi tractor-trailers.

Jackknifing refers to the situation in which any vehicle towing a trailer loses control of its trailer, causing it to swing out to form an L or V shape, possibly stretching across multiple lanes of the road.

Its name comes from the resemblance of the angled truck to a folding pocketknife. In every instance, a jackknife has the potential to cause a very dangerous multiple car accident.

Causes of jackknifes

In short, the primary cause of jackknifes is a loss of traction. In this case, traction means how well the wheels grip the road. The typical causes of jackknifing are:

  • Locking of trailer brakes due to improper braking
  • The force of a collision
  • Skidding on slippery roads

Locking of the trailer brakes is the number-one cause of jackknifes.

How the locking of brakes occurs

Locking occurs when a speeding truck driver brakes suddenly to avoid another vehicle or debris on the road. Due to the excessive speed and weight of the trailer, the brakes cannot stop the trailer being towed. As a result, the trailer’s wheels lock and swing outward. As the trailer swings out, it puts nearby cars in danger.

The effects of a jackknifing trailer can be devastating, considering they are most commonly associated with tractor-trailers, which can weigh upward of 80,000 pounds. Jackknifing trailers are the cause of countless injuries and fatalities.

What can be done?

Trucking companies have the legal responsibility to have well-trained responsible drivers to transport their cargo. However, they don’t always live up to the responsibility. Drunk or improperly licensed truck drivers or lapses in trailer maintenance can cause jackknife accidents.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident and suspect the accident was caused by negligence, contact an attorney experienced with truck accidents. An experienced attorney can conduct a full investigation, determine if negligence was involved and hold the responsible parties accountable.

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