PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Although some opt to get an artificial Christmas tree, AAA says 42% of us still want to decorate a real tree this year, and with that comes getting it home safely.
John Paul, Senior Manager of Traffic Safety of AAA Northeast, offered some tips for getting you and your tree home the right way.
According to AAA’s recent survey, 44% of Americans use unsafe methods of transportation such as not using a roof rack or placing the tree on the back of a pickup truck.
But Paul also says speed is a major factor.
“Slow down. You have an item on the top of your car,” he added. “If you can, take secondary streets so the speeds are a little lower instead of the highway.”
The most common mistake AAA sees year after year is a person or family using string to get the tree home.
“Don’t use string, just don’t,” Paul said. “It will break and the tree could fall off the vehicle and damage another car. Use a secure strap.”
AAA also says to make sure the bottom of the tree is facing the front of the car when you tie it down so that it won’t go into the car behind you in a worst-case scenario. If the tree falls off, it could damage the vehicle or even worse, cause a crash.
According to AAA, “previous research found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.”
AAA offered the following tips:
- Plan Ahead – before heading out to buy a real Christmas tree, make sure to bring strong rope or ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves and of course – the right vehicle. One with a roof rack is ideal but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well.
- Wrap & Cover It – once you’ve found the perfect tree, have the lot wrap it in netting before loading it. Loose branches can also be secured with rope or twine to help protect the tree from damage. Also, prior to loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage.
- Trunk First – place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk facing the front of the car. If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is large enough – place the tree inside.
- Secure It – tie down the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the nylon offered by many tree lots. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk above a branch to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement.
- Tug Test – once tied down, give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.
- Nice & Easy – drive slowly and take back roads if possible. Higher speeds can create significant airflow that can damage your tree or challenge even the best tie-down methods.