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3 common types of accidents involving 18-wheelers

Big rigs and their drivers help keep everything in this country operating smoothly – but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have problems. In 2022 alone, for example, there were about 168,320 truck accidents – and 4,766 of them involved fatalities.

Some accidents are naturally more serious than others. Here are the top three kinds of wrecks commonly seen with 18-wheelers, and what can cause them.

1. Rollovers

Rollover accidents can be particularly dangerous because of the sheer size and weight of a big rig. When a semi goes through a rollover, it can wipe out any other vehicles in its path – and lead to multi-car pile-ups from behind. 

Rollovers are often caused by high speeds (especially on uneven roads or terrain with lots of curves), but they can also be caused by improperly loaded cargo. When a truck’s load suddenly shifts, so does its center of gravity, and that can make the entire vehicle tip over.

2. Jackknifes

A jackknife occurs when an 18-wheeler’s trailer swings out to the side so that the cab ends up at an angle with the truck’s back end. Like a rollover, this has the potential to wipe out any smaller vehicles that happen to be next to the truck when the jackknife starts.

Jackknife accidents often happen because the truck’s brakes are in poor condition and they don’t respond properly to the driver’s commands. Other times, a jackknife is caused by a lack of experience or inadequate training – which is something that may become more common as the trucking industry tries to keep up with an increasing demand for new drivers.

3. T-bones

When a smaller vehicle has a head-on collision with the side of an 18-wheeler, that’s called a “t–bone” accident, and they can be deadly – especially if the truck lacks the proper guards to keep the smaller vehicle from sliding underneath the big rig. 

These deadly wrecks can happen due to everything from distracted driving to the failure to obey traffic signals, and they often occur when a truck makes an abrupt lane change or turn.

Preventing wrecks with 18-wheelers isn’t easy, but the authorities keep trying. It’s ultimately going to take a multifaceted approach that involves improved driver training, better safety protocols and more enforcement when it comes to the rules about drivers and maintenance. If you’re involved in a crash with an 18-wheeler, legal guidance is wise.