As Americans head to farms, retail stores, and local tree lots to find a real tree this holiday season, AAA East Central urges motorists to make sure they are safely securing their trees during transport to keep them from becoming dangerous projectiles.
As with any large object, making sure a tree is properly secured will help prevent it from becoming a hazard to other drivers and to prevent vehicle damage.
“A real tree can add that special touch to your home’s holiday decor, but motorists need to use caution when transporting a live tree,” said Terri Rae Anthony, safety advisor, AAA East Central. “Negligence could mean you are putting other lives at risk and you could be setting yourself up for costly repairs to your own vehicle.”
Risks Associated with an Improperly Secured Holiday Tree:
According to previous AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research, more than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roads over a four-year period, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
Drivers can also face hefty fines and penalties as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle. Currently, every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Most states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10 to $5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders.
Additionally, an improperly secured tree can cost motorists as much as $1,500 in repairs. Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause permanent wearing and warping, and branches can scratch a vehicle’s paint.
AAA Tips for Safely Securing a Holiday Tree:
- Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a holiday tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. However, if you do not have a roof rack, use the bed of a pickup truck, or an SUV, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed.
- Use quality tie downs. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots.
- Protect the tree. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine.
- Protect your vehicle. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
- Point the trunk towards the front. Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.
- Tie it down. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie downs should be installed in a similar manner.
- Give it the tug test. Before you leave the lot, give the tree several strong tugs from various directions to make sure it is secured in place and will not blow away.
- Drive slowly and easily. Take the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Holiday tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.