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How Jackknife Accidents Happen

semi truck that crashed on the side of a road

Big rigs and 18-wheelers require extensive training, knowledge, and skill to safely operate daily. Truck drivers also need to be hyper-vigilant amidst distracted, tired, and (dare we say) clueless drivers on the roads and highways. When truck drivers get lazy, they put themselves and everyone else at risk; without the proper time and distance, the chances of a big rig slowing down and not causing a Texas trucking accident are slim to none. Worse than that, when drivers aren’t properly trained for worst-case scenarios when they’re on the road, they can cause their truck to jackknife and wreak even more havoc.

Jackknife accidents are statistically four times more likely to result in death than not. Why? When approximately 80,000 pounds (the federal legal limit, though some trucks are guilty of overloading their trailers) come at you at 50-70 miles per hour taking up multiple lanes of the road or highway, it’s difficult to avoid. While sometimes jackknife accidents are inevitable, say if a sedan, driving erratically, cut in front of a truck and then had to slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending another vehicle (that the truck driver left ample room between to avoid such a crash), the truck driver would have to slam on one of their three braking systems to avoid a high speed bumper-to-bumper accident. In reality, the truck driver should have been paying attention to all cars on the road around them, but the other driver acted negligently more than the truck driver.

Furthermore, truck driver’s can act negligently to need to slam on their brakes and cause a jackknife accident on their own, with such examples including:

  • Speeding
  • Tailgating
  • Distracted driving
  • Aggressive lane changing
  • Having an overloaded trailer (federally illegal)
  • DUI
  • And more

An 18-wheeler is equipped with 3 sets of brakes:

  • Steering axles brakes
  • The cab’s drive wheels’ brakes
  • And the trailer wheels’ brakes

When faced with the need to brake immediately, if the truck driver chooses to use the wheels brakes, they will swerve into other lanes as they cannot stop the momentum of the truck. If they choose the trailer wheels’ brakes, they will lose control of the entire truck. Both of these options cause jackknife accidents frequently. The steering axle brakes will stop a jackknife accident in most cases, but it won’t stop the truck and will cause a rear-end collision.

If you have been involved in a trucking accident, specifically a jackknife accident, contact our expert lawyers to discuss the events and plan your next steps. We can’t change what happened, but we can help protect you moving forward.

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