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Why do trucks jackknife and what happens if I'm struck by one?

Although the prospect of ice on the roadway causing a tractor-trailer to jackknife in New Mexico is small, it's not out of question that a trucker might lose traction and subsequent control of his truck for another reason.

In case you're unclear as to what jackknifing entails, it involves the trailer and cab portion of a semitruck falling out of alignment with one another. One of the telltale signs that a jackknife incident has occurred is when a tractor-trailer can be seen positioned in either a "V" or "L" orientation.

While in colder climates, jackknifing is common during winter months when truckers are attempting to traverse icy roads, they can also happen if a tractor-trailer hits an oil slick. They also often happen when truckers fail to give themselves enough time to brake.

In either one of these instances, one of the first signs a jackknife is going to occur is when the truck's tires begin sliding or skidding along the roadway as opposed to rolling along it instead.

It's as the truck is skidding that it's the worst time for a trucker to hit the brakes. If he or she brakes at this point, then it's likely that they'll completely lock up.

Although trained to handle such situations differently, it's often a trucker's fear that they'll lose their load that propels them to step on their brakes when faced with poor road conditions. This is what ultimately results in them jackknifing. Truckers may jackknife while attempting to back up their trucks as well.

During their training for a commercial driver's licence (CDL), truckers are taught to constantly monitor their mirrors to ensure that their trailer isn't aimed in the wrong direction. If they determine that it is, they're taught to either release their truck's brakes or to slightly raise their speed in hopes of gaining control over their tractor-trailer once again.

Truckers are also taught to avoid traveling with empty or lightly filled trailers whenever possible. They're told this because loaded trailers have been shown to provide them with optimal traction.

Finally, they are taught that, especially on icy, wet or slick roads, they should always leave additional space in front of them so that they can fully stop.

If you've been seriously injured in a crash with a jackknifed tractor-trailer, then a Los Lunas attorney can advise you of your right to recover medical costs and other expenses in your case.

Source: Bay & Bay Transportation News, "How truck driver can avoid jackknifing," accessed Dec. 29, 2017

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