It’s time to start thinking about how to get your Christmas tree home. There’s more to it than meets the eye to get it done safely and according to AAA, a lot of drivers aren’t doing it correctly.
In a new study, AAA researchers say an estimated 20 million Americans who bought a real Christmas tree in the last three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle. Not only can you risk seriously damaging your vehicle, but it can also cause dangerous road debris if it falls off on the drive home.
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 – caused 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years. About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
With all this in mind, here are AAA tip’s on how to get your Christmas tree home safe and sound.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Protect the tree.
- Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine.
4. Protect your vehicle.
- Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
Don’t forget, you can face legal issues and fines if an unsecured tree falls off your vehicle. AAA says every state currently 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 and $5,000. But jail time is a possible punishment as well in at least 16 states. Something to keep in mind when you’re at the tree lot.
Chevrolet also provides tree transporting tips of its own which include placing the stump end of the tree toward the front of the car to reduce aerodynamic drag. You can read more of Chevrolet’s tips here.