December 2nd, 2020 – 11:10 AM
AAA – The Auto Club Group –
Thanksgiving has passed and the Christmas season is in full effect. Parents with children in tow are searching for a Christmas tree. Now that you have found the perfect tree, transporting it to your home can be problematic.
Previous research from AAA found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths across the United States. 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 while driving.
“Not transporting a Christmas tree correctly can be dangerous,” said Montrae Waiters, AAA spokeswoman, The Auto Club Group. “It can be a driving distraction, putting your safety and others at risk.”
Fortunately, Christmas trees can be safely transported by taking the following steps:
- Do not visit a tree lot- If you or anyone from your family has tested positive for COVID-19 or are 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 keep it nearby while shopping.
- Make sure to bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves and of course, the right vehicle- One with a roof rack is ideal but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well.
- 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.
- 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 a SUV, CUV, van or minivan – place the tree inside. If not, rent or borrow a pickup truck, a vehicle with a roof rack or one that is large enough to accommodate the tree inside.
- Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps- Avoid using the twine 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.
- 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.
- Drive slowly and take back roads if possible- Higher speeds can create significant airflow that can damage your tree or challenge even the best tie-down methods.
Drivers can 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. Drivers can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their loads to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.