Ottawa

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, after three serious weekend crashes.

7 injured in weekend crashes, according to Renfrew County paramedics

A vehicle flipped upside down on Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on Oct. 13, 2019. (County of Renfrew Paramedic Service)

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."

Mike Nolan, chief of the County of Renfrew Paramedic Service, said there have been several collisions involving distracted drivers as the leaves have started to change. 0:55

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. 

Heavy visitor volumes led to the temporary closure of one Gatineau Park entrance on both Saturday and Sunday. (Kim Vallière/Radio-Canada)

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.

Traffic is backed up on Highway 60 in Algonquin Park on Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019. Park officials say about 4,000 vehicles entered the park that day. (County of Renfrew Paramedic Service)

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."

About the Author

Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa and Winnipeg. Previously, she worked as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at laura.glowacki@cbc.ca.

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