If you’ve ever had to tow something, you may be aware of the risks associated with having to haul something. Perhaps you’ve even seen accidents involving 18-wheelers and wondered how it happened. One of the biggest risks while towing is jackknifing. This incident can be frightening and very dangerous for you, as well as other drivers.
What is Jackknifing?
Jackknifing can occur when your vehicle skids due to lost traction and moves in a direction that is different from the direction that your trailer is moving. For instance, imagine you are traveling smoothly down the road when suddenly your vehicle begins to skid towards the left. Your trailer will continue to move forward, and as a result, your vehicle will not just skid, but spin and collide into what you were towing. When this happens the trailer may continue to drag forward and veer off-road, invade other lanes, or even head into oncoming traffic.
Jackknifing can be avoided by following some simple guidelines while towing. Following these tips can help put you and other drivers in the safest situations.
• Weather – Rain is common in Texas and can impair your visibility and reduce traction. Monitor weather patterns before you head out.
• Tires – Are your tires properly inflated? Check the manufacturer specifications regarding inflation and check the tread as well. Do this for your vehicle and trailer. If your tires are in poor condition, they can greatly increase the risk of jackknifing.
• Brakes – Have your brakes been serviced recently? Brakes are essential in allowing you to reach your destination safely. Ensure that your brakes are in operable conditions and can endure the added weight of your vehicle and cargo.
• Payload – One big cause of jackknifing is poor weight distribution. If you’re towing a trailer, distribute any items inside so that the weight is spread throughout all areas of the trailer. Having too little weight may also cause a trailer to jackknife. Ensure your cargo is properly weighted and distributed before departing and after any sudden movements you may have made while traveling.
An important rule to follow in any situation is following the speed limit, but even more importantly is to drive below the speed limit while towing. By doing so you increase your reaction time to multiple variables such as unexpected traffic, a reckless driver cutting you off, or unexpected road conditions. While driving, you should constantly monitor your rear and side-view mirrors to check for payload sway, especially while braking. When you brake you can cause your trailer to sway and increase the odds of your vehicle jackknifing. If this happens, release the brake; this increases traction and may correct the trailer. Other methods that will prevent you from jackknifing include slowing down adequately before performing any turns. Never attempt to turn and brake at the same time. Instead, slow down ahead of time before a curve. Apply the brakes gently and never attempt any sudden maneuvers.
Following these easy tips can greatly reduce your chances at jackknifing and having a safe, enjoyable trip.