The fall months are a beautiful time in the Northeast, as summer’s green leaves turn into a tapestry of colors, the air becomes crisper and morning frosts coat our car windshields. This beauty, however, comes with danger, as Mother Nature relieves the trees of their leafy burden. Fallen leaves pose a number of dangers. Motorists and pedestrians need to be alert and a cautious of these issues.

Leaves that have fallen on both improved and unimproved ground (e.g., sidewalks, parking lots, park paths) will hide tripping hazards, such as non-level sidewalk sections, exposed tree roots, holes or depressions. An unwary pedestrian walking through an area with leaf cover will have no visible warning of the hazard they are about to encounter, creating the potential for a fall and injury.

These same concerns apply with equal force to motorists, who should be aware of the possibility that leaf cover on a roadway is concealing a pothole, curb or other abnormal condition of the roadway. These driving concerns are enhanced when you add rain to the mix, causing a wet leaf condition to exist. Wet leaves are a well-known slip hazard to pedestrians, and are also dangerous to motorists. A vehicle’s ability to stop is influenced by the slipperiness of the asphalt or tarmac it is riding on – known to engineers as the ‘coefficient of friction’ – and many auto collisions have occurred when an operator was unable to bring his/her vehicle to a timely stop because of a slippery roadway. Fallen leaves, both dry and wet, will clog drainage systems and grates, creating the potential for pooling of water, or even flooding that would not otherwise be expected.

The fall is a wonderful time to experience the outdoors in the Northeast, but it comes with a concern. Be aware of the potential dangers caused or concealed by fallen leaves, and exercise caution when you encounter these conditions.