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What’s Causing Jackknife Accidents in Illinois?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Trucking jackknife accidents are usually caused when a commercial truck skids because of a sudden stop due to traffic conditions, unsafe road conditions, and mechanical problems.

Jackknife Accidents are Often Fatal

A large commercial truck “jackknifes” when the cab of the truck moves in one direction and the wheels on the trailer move in another direction. When this happens, the trailer swings to one side at a 90-degree angle often slamming into nearby vehicles with terrific force. When large trucks jackknife, they may cross traffic lanes or collide with nearby cars causing multi-vehicle accidents. Due to the size and weight of a big rig, nearby vehicles can be pushed completely off the road or crushed by the weight of the large trailer. Occupants in vehicles hit by a jackknifed trailer often suffer severe, life-threatening injuries or death.

Trucking jackknife accidents are usually the result of a skid when the wheels of the truck lose traction or lock up. This is often caused when the truck has to stop suddenly due to traffic or road conditions, mechanical problems, other vehicles merging or changing lanes, or driver negligence.

Preventing Accidents

Jackknifing can occur to even the best and most experienced commercial truck drivers in the wrong conditions. The two most common reasons are improper braking and slippery roads. Although jackknife accidents are not always avoidable, commercial truckers should take safety precautions to prevent them. Truckers should:

  • Not tailgate or follow vehicles too closely
  • Avoid changing lanes in blind spots
  • Apply brakes slowly and gradually when stopping
  • Reduce speed going downhill and around curves
  • Make sure brakes and tires are balanced and well-maintained
  • Check rear view mirrors for trailer swing while traveling

Improperly loaded trailers can also contribute to jackknifing accidents and injuries. When a large, commercial truck is not properly loaded with evenly distributed weight and well-secured cargo, the trailer becomes unstable, especially around curves. If the truck is forced to swerve or make a sudden stop, the unstable trailer is much more likely to jackknife into oncoming traffic or adjacent lanes. Jackknifing at a high speed may even cause a commercial truck to roll over.

When jackknifing occurs, a trucker can lose complete control of his/her rig. Once a jackknife starts, it’s very difficult to stop because of the size, weight, and momentum of the moving trailer. Trucks and trailers often slide for dozens of yards before coming to a stop.