On average nearly 30 million Americans decorate their homes with live Christmas trees, during the holiday season. Picking the perfect tree is the fun part, but the process of bringing it home can be dangerous, if not done properly.
"Drivers who do not safely secure their Christmas tree risk damaging their vehicle and littering the roadway with dangerous debris," said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee Public Affairs Director, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "Other drivers who swerve to avoid debris like this could cause a crash resulting in serious injury or even death. AAA urges all drivers to transport their Christmas trees safely, so everyone can enjoy this holiday season."
According to AAA:
• An estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real Christmas tree between 2014-2017 did not properly secure it to their vehicle.
• 2019 survey data reveals 44 percent of Americans will use unsafe methods when transporting their tree.
• Vehicle damage that results from an improperly secured Christmas tree, such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames, could cost up to $1,500 to repair.
• 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, from 2014-2017.
• About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
• One-in-three crashes involving debris occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (daylight hours when people are most likely to be out shopping for a real Christmas tree)
Tips for Safety Transporting your Tree
• 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.
• Removing the tree. Be careful not to damage the vehicle when cutting or removing straps used to secure the tree. Make sure the area around the vehicle is clear to avoid injuring a person or pet. Also make sure to remove any sap from the paint or upholstery immediately.
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 and $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.
About The Auto Club Group
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America. ACG and its affiliates provide membership, insurance, financial services and travel offerings to over 9.9 million members across eleven states and two U.S. territories including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois and Minnesota; and a portion of Indiana. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada and whose mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety. Motorists can map a route, identify gas prices, find discounts, book a hotel, and access AAA roadside assistance with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. Learn more at AAA.com/mobile. Visit AAA on the Internet at AAA.com.