Keep your eyes on the road, say paramedics — not the leaves

Keep your eyes on the road, say paramedics — not the leaves

A county west of Ottawa is asking leaf-lovers to use common sense and focus on the road when they're hunting for fall colours.

Emergency crews attended three serious crashes Sunday in the Ottawa Valley and Algonquin Park and treated seven people for injuries, said Michael Nolan, chief of the County of Renfrew Paramedic Service, on Monday.

There were no fatalities, but some of the injuries were serious and required hospital care. 

"Yesterday was an early warning," Nolan said.

"We need to remind people to be safe on the roads and enjoy what is arguably one of the most beautiful times of the year — but [one that] comes with risk."

Along with the three serious crashes, there were several others that didn't need ambulances to attend. Most occurred along Highway 60 between Huntsville and Barry's Bay, Nolan said.

"[It's] not only those looking at the leaves, but people that are half pulling off the road, maybe doing a U-turn after they've pulled off the road and — in some cases — just stumbling into traffic to take that picture," he said. 

County of Renfrew Paramedic Service

Algonquin Park, Gatineau Park both overrun

Part of the issue is the sheer number of vehicles in the area, often driven by people unfamiliar with the sometimes narrow and winding roads.

There were about 4,000 cars and 23 coach buses in Algonquin Park Sunday, an official said.

Closer to Ottawa, the National Capital Commission had to temporarily close one of the Gatineau Park entrances on both Saturday and Sunday to manage the number of visitors.

Along with asking drivers to concentrate on the road and not the trees, Nolan suggested stopping in small towns or going to parks to get photos rather than stopping on the side of the road, no matter how bright or vibrant the colours are.

Kim Vallière/Radio-Canada

He also urged leaf-seekers to plan ahead and pick stops where it's safe to park and get out.

"Look on your map, figure out where your best shots will be," Nolan said.

"And recognize that with increased cottage traffic, Thanksgiving traffic and people out enjoying the leaves, that that's going to take a bit of planning ahead."