Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Accidents Caused by Leaves Piled in the Streets

At tonight's Princeton Environmental Commission meeting in Municipal Hall, we'll be discussing ways to reduce the amount of leaves and yardwaste being piled in the streets. One approach is detailed on a page accessed via the tabs at the top of this blog. Click on "Improving Yardwaste Collection", or click on this link. It lists seven downsides of loose dumping, and offers a way to shift towards containerization and thereby clean up our streets and waterways.

How dangerous are leaf piles in the streets? I've heard of near misses, particularly at night, when drivers didn't see pedestrians forced to walk in the car lane to avoid leaf piles, and I've seen kids playing in street leaf piles--a natural inclination--until their distracted parents noticed the danger. documents two deaths in other towns when children playing in street leaves were run over. The photo below shows how wet leaves near intersections can cause cars to skid.

But have leaves in Princeton's streets actually caused accidents? An OPRA request to the Princeton Police Department yielded a couple reports of accidents caused by leaf piles. Here's one description:
"Driver 1 stated he was traveling northbound on Arreton Road when he swerved left to avoid a large pile of leaves which were situated along the northbound road edge. As a result, Driver 1 stated, he lost control of his vehicle and drove off of the left side of the roadway before crashing into a row of bushes in front of 165 Arreton Road and continuing northbound onto the property at 155 Arreton Road. There, Driver 1 stated, he crashed into and drove over two trees and a large boulder before his vehicle came to rest in the driveway at 155 Arreton Road."
What we have, then, in Princeton is a couple car accidents that showed up on a keyword search over the past five years, stories of close calls, and tragic deaths documented elsewhere in the country. We know that it's difficult for the municipality to enforce its ordinance restricting how far piles intrude into the street, and that most piles violate the ordinance. There's an ongoing calculation that street leaf piles are safe enough, but they're also an accident waiting to happen.

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