Our News

The Causes of Truck Jackknife Accidents

By Brown Moore

June 23, 2015

Home News & Resources The Causes of Truck Jackknife Accidents

It is common to witness trailers swinging slightly from side to side on the road, but when the swing increases such that it reaches a 90-degree angle with the tractor, it is called a jackknife. The action can be deadly to occupants of nearby vehicles, which is why all drivers need to understand what causes these accidents — and how to avoid them.

Certain Conditions Make Jackknife Incidents More Likely

In June 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied past single-vehicle deadly truck crashes to arrive at an analysis of fatal large truck crashes. Using complex calculations, they found that the following factors substantially increased the likelihood of a jackknife:

  • Adverse weather conditions (3.22 times higher)
  • Curved roadways (86 percent higher)
  • Poor lighting conditions (43 percent higher)
  • A 10 mph increase in the posted speed limit (49 percent higher for combination trucks)

Naturally, most experienced truck drivers are well-aware of these risks. They can even control their speed and, to some degree, how their trucks are packed. However, they cannot control the driving environment, but they can often control how they respond to it.

What Other Drivers Need to Know

Sharing the road with semi-trucks poses many risks, but no one other than the truck driver can actually prevent a jackknife from happening. Rather, motorists have to learn how to avoid becoming involved. The following two tips can considerably help driver safety:

  • Observe: Keep the jackknife risk factors in mind when driving near trucks with one or more trailers. While well-behind a truck, look for signs of trailer swaying, as well as any unusual driving behaviors. If possible, notice the traffic surrounding the truck — any sudden actions of a nearby vehicle could cause a truck to react unpredictably.
  • Avoid: A small vehicle is no match against a truck, so upon observation of a risk, drivers need to identify the best way to avoid an accident. It is never a good idea to drive next to a trailer, and cars should position themselves well behind or in front of large trucks. Most drivers prefer to get in front of a truck; however, if this means passing next to a swinging trailer, remain behind the truck, maintaining enough distance to react should a jackknife occur.

How a Charlotte Tractor Trailer Accident Attorney Can Help

Proving negligence in a jackknife accident can be more complex than it might initially seem. While trucker negligence is a possibility, these accidents can be caused by another driver who cut off the truck or even by truck manufacturers or repair shops that caused vehicle failure. It is vital for injury victims to contact a trucking accident lawyer with specific experience investigating and litigating these complex cases.

Call us at 800-948-0577 or use our convenient online contact form to obtain more information.