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When big rigs jackknife

As a North Carolina driver, you likely wish you did not have to share our roads and highways with 18-wheelers. These huge trucks are so much bigger and heavier than your passenger vehicle that should you crash into one that jackknifes immediately in front of you, you and your passengers face a high risk of receiving serious injuries.

jackknife is a potentially catastrophic trucking accident where the driver loses control of his or her vehicle because the cab and trailer begin folding in on each other.

What a jackknife looks like

If you think about the way a pocket knife closes, this is exactly what happens when a truck jackknifes. Only instead of a knife blade getting nearer and nearer the handle and finally disappearing inside it, the back of the truck’s trailer gets nearer and nearer to the cab. Ultimately it has nowhere to go other than striking the cab with a terrific force. All this can happen in the space of only a few seconds, and there is no way to predict where the disabled truck will stop and come to rest.

If your vehicle is immediately behind a jackknifing truck, there is virtually no way for you to avoid crashing into it, regardless of what evasive actions you take. Even trucking experts cannot predict how any given 18-wheeler will act when it starts to jackknife.

What causes jackknifes

Most jackknifes occur when a truck driver applies too much pressure to the gas pedal while going around a curve or turning. The trailer’s wheels lose their traction on the road surface and begin to go straight forward instead of following the cab. Other jackknifes occur when a truck is going downhill on a steep grade and the driver applies too much pressure to the brake. In this situation, the cab slows down, but the trailer fails to slow at the same rate.

Your best strategy when you find yourself following a tractor-trailer as it begins going around a curve, attempts to turn or starts downhill is to gently apply your brakes and drop back as far as possible. This is especially prudent if the road is in less-than-ideal condition due to rain, fog or other weather-related factors. Once you drop back, remain extra vigilant until the truck completes its maneuver or safely reaches the bottom of the hill or mountain.

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