October 16, 2019

Wet Leaves - as Dangerous as Black Ice

Beautiful Fall Colors - Without any Black and Blue

Autumn in Kentucky is beautiful, with the change in seasons and the colorful fall trees. Yet as much as we enjoy the scenic aspect of autumn driving, it presents risks. When leaves pile up on roadways and walkways, they can cause big problems, especially for those who are driving too fast or for pedestrians who can slip and fall on sidewalks.

Driving on Wet Leaves
KLC Insurance Services Director of Loss Control Brian Dickey said, “Most people don’t realize it but driving on wet leaves can be just as dangerous as driving on black ice. The fall is actually a very busy time for car crashes (and insurance claims).” Driving too fast can easily lead to difficulty stopping in time, causing you to rear-end another car or simply lose control.

As with ice, roads covered with wet leaves cause problems with accelerating around corners and speeding up when trying to merge on busy roads. In addition, leaves can stick to the road, hiding dangerous items such as deep potholes or other road defects. The first 15 minutes of a rainstorm are the most dangerous because of the oils that are released back on the road after a dry period. Pairing the oils with recently fallen leaves are a dangerous combination.

Dickey advises that you should think about driving on leaves the same way you think about driving on ice.

“Drive smoothly, don’t jerk your wheel, brake suddenly or accelerate quickly. If you begin to skid, turn into the skid and lightly accelerate. This helps you regain control of your car,” he said. “Most importantly, give yourself proper distance between you and the car in front of you so you can stop before you have an accident.”

With each trip, you should make sure your car is in proper working order. Dickey said you should always check your brakes, make sure your tires still have the appropriate tread and are inflated properly. You and employees can learn more about overall driving by viewing the KLC Insurance Services driving series.

Walking on Wet or Dry Leaves
Walkways are another concern. Dry leaves can hide defects on sidewalks that can cause people to trip. Wet leaves can make sidewalks and parking lots just as slippery as ice.

As with ice, it is easy to fall when the ground is damp and covered with leaves. People are normally aware of the risk with ice, and so property owners are more likely to clear their parking lots and sidewalks. Pedestrians are more likely to be careful on snowy days. But, when it comes to leaves, people tend to walk just as if the ground is clear. Properties need to be kept clean.

As a pedestrian, be careful when the ground is wet, and even more so when it is covered with slippery leaves. Dry leaves can also hide dangerous defects in sidewalks, so watch where you are going.

As always, make sure city staff (as well as you and your family) wear proper footwear with a good tread, appropriate for walking. Property owners (including municipalities) need to take care of the leaves that pile up on their parking lots and sidewalks. They should also be sure to provide safety features inside buildings, such as appropriate mats and wet floor signs.

Finally, though it can be fun to jump into leaf piles, avoid them unless you are certain you know what is inside. You could end up slipping and sliding on decomposing leaves that have been sitting on the ground for a while. Make sure you keep the bottoms of your shoes clean of leaves, and wipe your shoes carefully when you go inside. It is easy for leaves to stick to your shoes, creating a surface that is extremely slippery when you try to walk.

This fall, remind employees to drive carefully, walk carefully and maintain proper clearing on streets and sidewalks. We all want to enjoy the beautiful colors of fall, without any “black and blue” injuries.