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Are you at risk of being hurt by a jackknifed truck?

Despite having an unseasonably warm autumn thus far, New Jersey residents know all too well that the ice and snow that are the hallmarks of a Northern winter can't be all that far behind.

Jackknifing trucks on the interstates are a particularly dangerous hazard in a winter storm. However, what exactly does that term mean, and what danger does it entail?

Picture a half-closed pocket knife and the shape it forms — usually similar to a "V" or an "L." That's sort of the form a jackknifed truck takes on once its trailer and cab are no longer properly aligned. As one can imagine, no driver can be in control of his rig when such an error occurs.

Bad weather increases the potential for jackknifing because trucks lose traction on roads slicked by ice, snow and freezing rain. Inexperienced and fatigued drivers can improperly apply the brakes, exacerbating the problem and causing their big rigs to go into skids. Locked wheels cause the trailer to swing wide into other lanes, often setting off chain reaction wrecks that can prove deadly for those in smaller passenger vehicles.

A heavy, full cargo load reduces the likelihood of jackknifing by increasing traction of the wheels on the highway. During inclement weather, truckers should be on the alert for signs that their trailers are beginning to sway. Two ways to avert disaster are speeding up a bit and letting up on the brakes.

Whenever road conditions are less than optimum, truck drivers should leave additional room between them and the vehicle ahead of them so they have enough time to brake. Passenger vehicles should also avoid following 18-wheelers too closely or driving in their blind spots longer than it takes to maneuver around them.

Those who have been hurt in accidents with jackknifed trucks may wind up having to file claims for damages with the insurance companies of the at-fault truckers and/or the companies who employ them.

Source: Bay & Bay, "How Truck Drivers Can Avoid Jackknifing," accessed Nov. 18, 2016

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