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AAA urges drivers to safely secure Christmas trees

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Fri, Dec 14th 2018 06:40 pm

Millions of drivers facing expensive damage and fines from improperly secured trees

By AAA of Western and Central New York

Real or artificial? A AAA survey found an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real Christmas tree in the past three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle, risking serious vehicle damage and dangerous road debris. 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 vehicle damage, Christmas trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other drivers.

AAA urges all drivers to transport their Christmas trees safely this holiday season.

“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 Elizabeth Carey, AAA Western and Central New York public relations director. “Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”

And according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris – which could include objects like improperly secured Christmas trees that fly off cars, landing on the road or on other cars – 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.

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.

•Use quality tiedowns. 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 toward 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 as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle. They can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their loads to prevent items from falling off the vehicle.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 870,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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