AAA Mid-Atlantic: Do You Know the Ropes?
AAA Offers Christmas Tree Safety Tips – How to Tie One On and Get Lit Safely
PHILADELPHIA, PA (December 14, 2018) With the Christmas season well underway, many Philadelphia-area residents have turned their focus to choosing a live tree. Whether tying the tree to the vehicle yourself or having someone do it for you, drivers should always make sure that their new holiday decoration won’t harm their vehicle, other motorists’ vehicles or the passengers inside. And once you get your tree home, there are a few things to know to help you keep it and your holiday homestead safe.
Tying One On
According to a 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.
“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames – damage that could cost up to $1,500 to repair,” said Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "Throwing a tree on a vehicle and not securing it or carelessly tying it on could present a serious road danger if it comes loose and flies off into traffic," Tidwell said.
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 nationwide that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over a four-year period. And, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
Fortunately, Christmas trees can be safely transported, AAA says, 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-
In Pennsylvania, under PA General Assembly Title 75, the general rule is that no vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping, sifting, leaking or otherwise escaping. Violations can result in a fine of between $100 and $1,000, dependent on whether the violation caused an injury.
Once the Christmas tree reaches its holiday home safely, proper placement and decorations are key to prevent a devastating house fire. The National Fire Protection Association reports that although Christmas tree fires are rare, when they do occur, they are more likely to be serious:
- Between 2012 - 2016, U.S. fire departments responded to an average 170 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year.
- These fires caused an average of 4 deaths, 15 injuries, and $12 million in direct property damage annually.
- Electrical distribution or lighting equipment was involved in 43% of home Christmas tree fires.
- On average, one of every 45 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 139 total reported home fires.
- Two of every five (40%) home Christmas tree fires started in the living room, family room, or den.
- In one-quarter (27%) of the Christmas tree fires and in 80% of the deaths, some type of heat source, such as a candle or equipment, was too close to the tree.
- The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day and New Year's Eve.
“No one wants to have their holiday ruined by a house fire that could have been prevented,” said Craig Small, Ogden Fire Company Chief. “While you may look at your tree as the centerpiece of your holiday decorations, you must treat it as a potential fire danger and take steps to protect your family and your home.”
Make sure the fireplace is all that gets “lit.”
- Make sure the tree is at least three feet away from any heat source (fireplace, radiator, candles, heat vents, or lights)
- Make sure the tree is not blocking an exit.
- Add water to your tree daily.
- Replace any string of lights with worn or broken cords or loose bulb connections. Never use lit candles to light the tree.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania. 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.