MEDFORD, Ore. -- A recent study by AAA says an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased real Christmas trees did not properly secure the tree to their vehicle. The AAA survey was conducted over the last three years and shows that many of those surveyed used unsafe methods to deliver their tree home.
“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious damage to door seals and window frames,” said Greg Brannon, director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”
And according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris – which could include objects like improperly secured Christmas trees that fly off cars, landing on the road or on other cars – was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years. And, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
And drivers could pay a high price for a falling tree. Most penalties range from $10 to $5,000.
Here are some helpful steps for securing your tree on top of your vehicle:
• Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a Christmas 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 Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.