Lots of First Coast families will no doubt be bringing home a real Christmas trees this weekend.
But do you know how to safely get that tree to the house without damaging your car or potentially hurting someone along the way?
According to a new AAA survey, an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real Christmas tree in the last three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle, risking serious vehicle damage and dangerous road debris.
Road debris of all kinds was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years.
“Not transporting a Christmas tree incorrectly 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.”
AAA recommends taking the following steps to ensure the safe transport of Christmas trees:
- 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.