Weather In-Depth: Driving on wet leaves

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It is a pretty time of the year in Western New York. The fall colors are advancing quickly and News10NBC’s Glenn Johnson imagines that we will be approaching peak colors in the next week or two.

However, from time to time the weather can complicate that enjoyment. Glenn wants to emphasize it’s nothing we can’t handle, but the rainy weather can be an issue when the leaves are on the ground. 

Thus far the month of October has brought five consecutive days of wet weather and even with dry weather over the next 48 hours, the probability of rain will go up dramatically this weekend. The concern is the mix of rainfall and leaves coming off of the trees and onto the roadways. It is this combination that brings the potential for slippery conditions. But what if the real impact? By some estimates if you are traveling at 40 mph and on a dry road, that is probably of little concern. At that speed, most vehicles will stop within 80 feet.

However, if you are traveling on a wet road the stopping distance could increase to 160 feet. If we factor in the additional wet leaves, this could increase your stopping distance to nearly 250 feet.  Remember, many types of leaves have a waxy film which can increase the slippery nature of the road.

As a result, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind when venturing down the backroads of Western New York.

Make sure you have a good tread on the tires. The quality of the tread will help to channel away any excess water. If you do have to make an emergency stop, that good tread will significantly reduce your chance of a skid. In addition, if at all possible, avoid jamming on the brakes on wet leaves. And lastly, it’s the age old adage of leaving plenty of distance before you have to make that hard stop. 

If nothing else, the fall season this is good practice for what eventually will be the snowy season in Western New York.