Do You Know the Ropes?
AAA Urges Drivers to Safely Secure Christmas Trees
Millions of drivers facing expensive damage and fines from improperly secured trees
It's that time of year when millions of Americans set out in search of the perfect Christmas tree, then haphazardly 'tie one on' - a dangerous practice for those who don't know the ropes.
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 endangering others on the road.
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.
In addition to the vehicle damage, Christmas trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other drivers.
"Throwing a tree on a vehicle and carelessly tying it on could be a costly mistake, not just because of damage to the vehicle, but because of the danger it presents if it comes loose," says Amy Parmenter, spokesperson for AAA in greater Hartford.
According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris (such as a Christmas tree flying off a car) was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years. And, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
AAA urges all drivers to transport their Christmas trees safely this holiday season.
Fortunately, Christmas trees can be safely transported by taking the following steps:
- 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.
- Bring proper tools. 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. Bring an old blanket and gloves.
- Protect the tree - and your vehicle. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine. 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.
Drivers can face hefty fines and penalties if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle.
Drivers can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their loads to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than one million members in Connecticut. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit www.aaa.com.