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Real Christmas trees can become dangerous projectiles if not properly secured

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and the Christmas season is in full swing. Parents with children in tow are searching for a Christmas tree, eager to bring holiday cheer into their homes. After finding the perfect tree comes the challenge of safely transporting it back home.

In order to keep spirits high, and everyone on the roadway safe, AAA is reminding drivers this holiday season to properly secure and transport their real Christmas trees so everyone can safely enjoy the holidays.

Previous research from AAA found road debris, which includes objects like improperly secured Christmas trees that fly off of cars, caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period and resulted in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths across the United States. With the number of COVID-19 cases still on the rise, and hospitals already spread thin, it is important everyone take care to avoid needlessly adding to those numbers with preventable accidents and injuries.

"Picking out a real Christmas tree is a great tradition for many families, but if the tree isn't transported correctly, it can become dangerous," said Meredith Terpstra, spokeswoman for AAA, The Auto Club Group. "Drivers who don't secure their tree properly risk the safety of drivers around them and damage to their own vehicle."

Drivers can face hefty fines and penalties as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle. Currently every state has a law making 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.

To help drivers prevent injuries and avoid penalties AAA has a few tips on how to properly secure Christmas trees to help prevent items from falling off the vehicle.

Safe Shopping:

  • Do not visit a tree lot if you or anyone from your family has tested positive for COVID-19 or are actively experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
  • Call the lot ahead of time and ask about their policies for visiting. It is possible they may have reduced operating hours or are limiting the amount of people who can visit the lot at one time. It is also a good idea to ask when they are slow and plan to visit then, when crowds may be smaller.
  • Although most lots are located outside, it is recommended to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Bring hand sanitizer and use it regularly while shopping.

Safe Transport:

Transporting a real Christmas tree is the same as hauling any other kind of large object. Making sure the tree is properly secured will help prevent vehicle damage and lessen the chance of it coming loose and creating a potential hazard for other drivers.

  • Vehicle Type - It's best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack, but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well. If the tree fits inside the vehicle, that is the safest way to transport it. If you do not have a vehicle large enough for the tree to safely fit within or be attached on top, consider renting a large van or truck for the occasion.
  • Wrap & Cover It – Once you've found the perfect tree, have the lot wrap it in netting before loading it. Loose branches can also be secured with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage. Prior to loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage.
  • Trunk First –Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk facing the front of the car. If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is large enough – place the tree inside.
  • Secure It – Tie down the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the nylon offered by many tree lots. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk above a branch to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement
  • Tug Test – Once tied down, give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.
  • Nice & Easy – Drive slowly and take back roads if possible. Higher speeds can create significant airflow, which that can damage your tree or challenge even the best tie-down methods.