Most people have heard about commercial trucks jackknifing resulting in crashes. Unfortunately, such collisions are not uncommon. This type of 18-wheeler accident occurs in Texas and around the country, and can cause serious or fatal injuries to motorists.
Jackknifing occurs when the trailer and the vehicle pulling it become out of sync. Instead of continuing forward in a straight line, the truck and trailer create an L or V formation, which resembles a knife blade that folds out of its handle.
Jackknifing can be caused by several issues, but most commonly it is caused by a loss of traction. Traction can be lost when a truck is driving on slick roads or the driver is braking improperly, causing the tires to skid on the road. If a truck driver then slams on the brakes the skidding wheels may not have sufficient traction to stop, and may instead lock up. This loss of control may result in the rig swinging sideways and jackknifing.
Alert truck drivers can generally prevent jackknifing by taking several precautions. Truck drivers should try to avoid situations where they are required to brake quickly, and should regularly check their mirrors to monitor trailer swing. This is especially important after braking abruptly or when driving with an empty trailer. Anti-lock brakes may also prevent wheels from locking, and allow truckers to more effectively maneuver to prevent jackknifing.
Other motorists can also take steps to avoid a jackknife accident with a semi. Motorists should leave sufficient space between their vehicle and big rigs on the road. This is particularly important during inclement weather or when roads are otherwise slick.
Source: howstuffworks, How to Avoid Jackknifing, Jane McGrath