Drivers can damage vehicles with improperly secured trees
By AAA of Western and Central New York
Real or artificial? This year, more than ever, Americans are likely eager to bring some holiday cheer to their lives. This could mean shopping (and doing so early) for a real Christmas tree. If it isn’t properly secured on a vehicle, the tree can become a dangerous projectile, endangering others on the road. Research from AAA finds road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
Transporting a real tree is the same as hauling any other kind of large object. Making sure the tree is properly secured will help prevent vehicle damage and lessen the chance of it coming loose and creating a potential hazard for other drivers.
•If a tree is improperly secured to a car, it can cost drivers as much as $1,500 in repairs. Twine, ropes or straps can wear away paint and tear rubber seals when routed through door or window openings. Closing a door over tree tie downs may also permanently distort the window frame and tree branches can cause scratches to the paint.
•Transporting a real Christmas tree home is easy as long as you have the right tools and follow AAA’s simple tips:
√ Do not visit a tree lot if you or anyone from your family has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
√ Call the lot ahead of time and ask about its policies for visiting. It is possible the lot may have reduced operating hours or is limiting the amount of people who can visit the lot at one time. It is also a good idea to ask when the lot is slow and plan to visit then, when crowds may be smaller.
√ Although most lots are located outside, it is recommended to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Bring hand sanitizer and keep it nearby while shopping.
√ Make sure to bring strong rope or nylon 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.
√ 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.
√ 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.
√ 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 a SUV, CUV, van or minivan, place the tree inside. If not, rent or borrow a proper vehicle.
√ Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the twine 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.
√ 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.
√ 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.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.