Jackknifing can be prevented!

What is jackknifing? And how exactly can it be prevented?

Jackknifing incidents happen when a towing vehicle starts to skid, and it is not corrected immediately. If this skid is not handled correctly, it could lead to a spin, as the trailer’s momentum pushes it from behind. The vehicle and the trailer then fold like an L or a V, like the acute angle of a pocket knife.

Jackknifing accidents are rare. However, when they do happen, they involve severe injuries and even death.

5 Common Causes of Jackknifing

It is said that there is a cause for every effect. That includes jackknifing. Here are five causes:

1. Driving Distractions — One of the most common causes of jackknifing is sudden braking. When driving, your full attention must be on the road. In this way, you can anticipate — instead of being surprised by — road obstacles. You then can slow down instead of braking suddenly.

2. Extreme Weather — Bad weather doesn’t automatically cause jackknifing, but it increases the risk if the driver is not careful. Heavy rain, ice, or snow can make the road slippery, making it hard for both trailer and vehicle to maintain road traction. Any sudden braking or jerky swerving can easily cause skidding, leading the vehicle and trailer to jackknife.

3. Impaired Judgment — Drivers made errors in judgment when abusing prescribed medications or when under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs. Lack of sleep can also impair judgment. Even experienced drivers can drive a little too fast or turn a little too quickly, leading to jackknifing incidents. The driver may also fail to recognize the risk of having an empty trailer or an unevenly distributed load in the trailer.

4. Mechanical Problems — Hydraulic failure and brake failure are two common mechanical problems that can result in road accidents, including jackknifing.

5. Overspeeding — When you’re driving too fast — over 55 mph — you could lose control of your truck and trailer should you need to brake suddenly. High-speed driving is typical along interstates and highways, and that’s where jackknifing accidents commonly happen as well.

5 Tips to Prevent Jackknifing

Now that we know the five causes of jackknifing, let’s apply reason to prevent it from happening:

1. Check Your Side Mirrors Periodically — Monitor your vehicle and the trailer for any signs of sway which could eventually lead to jackknifing.

2. Concentrate on Your Driving — Don’t text on your phone or be distracted with many calls. If you’re too sleepy or tired, pull over and rest awhile.

3. Distribute Your Cargo Evenly — Uneven distribution of cargo weight causes the trailer to become unstable and more prone to swaying and jackknifing.

4. Don’t Drive Too Fast! — This is just plain common sense. It may take you longer to reach your destination, but driving below 55 mph can reduce your risk of jackknife incidents. At reduced speed, you’re also reducing your vehicle’s inertia should it become unstable.

5. Use Your Brakes Properly — Brake as gradually as possible. Instead of braking during turns, gradually slow down on the stretch before a bend, and progressively accelerate when in the turn. Any sudden braking may cause the brakes to lock and may put you at risk of a jackknife situation.

5 Ways to Get Out of a Jackknife Situation

It’s a challenge to get out of a jackknife situation, but the following five tips may help:

1. Don’t Panic! Keep calm. Do NOT overreact.

2. Don’t Slam Your Brakes! Many drivers make this costly mistake which could worsen the situation.

3. Engage Your Hazard Lights. Inform incoming traffic and avoid bumping into other vehicles.

4. Gradually Decelerate. Straighten the steering wheel and turn it slightly toward the direction of the skid — no jerky movements. So if the skid is toward the passenger side, turn right slowly.

5. Gradually Accelerate. Slowly pull your vehicle and the trailer out of the skid. When it stabilizes, you can then further slow down as smoothly as possible.

The Bottom Line

The absolute best way to handle jackknifing is to prevent it from happening in the first place! And nothing is more effective in preventing this situation than being extra careful and extra cautious while driving. (Remember, no one got into a jackknife accident by driving too slow.)

Jackknifing is a potentially scary and dangerous situation. But if you’ll follow these common-sense tips, you’ll prevent it from happening.

Do you have other tips to share? Tell us in the comments!