AAA reminds drivers to properly secure Christmas trees after fatal crashes

(WIVB)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — AAA is reminding drivers who buy real Christmas trees to properly secure them when taking them home.

According to them, an estimated 20 million Americans did not correctly secure their tree in the last three years.

This can cause damage like scratched paint, torn door seals, and distorted window frames. In addition to that, the trees can be a hazard for other drivers.

“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious damage to door seals and window frames,” said Greg Brannon, director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. “Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”

The kind of damage mentioned above can cost up to $1,500 to repair.

In the past four years, improperly secured Christmas trees have flown off vehicles and caused more than 200,000 crashes. In those crashes, roughly 500 people were killed and 39,000 were injured.

“Currently every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road,” AAA says. “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.”

AAA also says two-thirds of debris-related crashes are because of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.

Here are some tips from AAA on how to properly secure your Christmas tree to a vehicle:

  • 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.