Everything You Need to Know About Jackknife Accidents & Compensation in Georgia
What is a Jackknife Accident?
"Jackknife accident" is the name given to a crash in which a tractor-trailer or other vehicle that bends in one or more places becomes folded over on itself, making it look like a partially-unfolded pocketknife. Jackknifing usually occurs when a semi tractor hauling a trailer skids. During the skid, the weight of the trailer pushes the tractor from behind, swinging the back end of the tractor around and pushing the trailer forward until the tractor and trailer are nearly facing one another.
Jackknife accidents cause fewer deaths than other kinds of tractor-trailer collisions, but they can still cause serious injury or death to motorists sharing the road with truck drivers. In 2005, 254 U.S. drivers lost their lives and over 1,000 more were injured in jackknife accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Jackknife accidents also cause thousands of dollars in property damage each year.
Causes and How to Avoid Jackknifing
The triggering event of a jackknife accident is usually a skid, but a skid can start in many different ways. Slippery roads, mechanical failures, and improper braking can all set off the skid that leads to a vehicle jackknifing.
As anyone who has driven in inclement weather knows, any kind of precipitation can cause slippery spots in the road. Standing water from rain or a flood, snow, hail, and ice frozen over the road surface can turn even the most-traveled roads into skating rinks. Most truck drivers will not risk their lives on roads that are too slippery, but a few may take the risk, especially if they are behind schedule. Unfortunately, it takes only one patch of ice, snow, or standing water to throw even a large semi into a skid.
Mechanical failures, including brake failures, can also cause a large truck to skid and jackknife. Unfortunately, since trucking companies make their living by keeping their trucks in service as long as possible, large trucks often travel on the road for longer periods than they should without appropriate maintenance. This increases the risk of breakdowns and mechanical failures. Improper maintenance or defective parts can also lead to brake failure or other mechanical failures, which can cause a jackknife accident.
Even if the brakes on a tractor-trailer are in perfect working order, they must still be used properly in order to stop the vehicle instead of making it skid. A driver who does not practice proper braking techniques can also make a tractor-trailer skid and jackknife. Improper training and driver distraction are two common causes of improper braking among drivers.
Finally, if an emergency occurs and the trucker has to stop the tractor-trailer quickly, he may try to make the tractor skid on purpose in order to cause a jackknife. Drivers who do this always hope they can avoid injuring anyone else on the road, but in an emergency, the pressure to act quickly often overrides the risk of causing injury with a jackknife accident.
In order to reduce the number of jackknife accidents each year, vehicle manufacturers and other officials have developed many systems to reduce or prevent jackknifing. Anti-lock braking systems have helped prevent the skids that cause jackknife accidents, and a similar system - known as electronic brakeforce distribution - varies the braking pressure in the rear wheels to prevent the trailer from pushing the tractor into a jackknifed position. Reducing the length of a trailer is another way to help prevent jackknife accidents.
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Many different forms of negligence may result in a jackknife accident. When a collision occurs, an experienced attorney like those at Grant Law Office can help unravel the details of the crash and determine who or what was responsible, allowing injured drivers to seek compensation from those who caused their injuries. To learn more about your legal rights, call us today.