AAA warns that poorly secured Christmas trees can become deadly projectiles, endangering fellow motorists. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

When Christmas trees become traffic hazards

So you found the perfect tree to make your Christmas bright. There’s just one problem: How are you going to get it home? 

It’s potentially a life-or-death question. The auto club AAA warns that unsecured trees can become flying projectiles that endanger other motorists. 

“When not secured properly, a Christmas tree can easily become hazardous road debris,” said AAA spokeswoman Montrae Williams. “This puts your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road at risk.” 

According to the club, road debris was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the last four years. About two-thirds of debris-related crashes involve improperly secured items falling from a vehicle. 

On Monday AAA advised motorists to take care when transporting Christmas trees, offering the following tips: 

• Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a Christmas tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack. But if you don’t 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 tie downs. 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 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. 

• Removing the tree. Be careful not to damage the vehicle when cutting or removing straps used to secure the tree. Make sure the area around the vehicle is clear to avoid injuring a person or pet. Also make sure to remove any sap from the paint or upholstery immediately.

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About the Author

David Wickert
David Wickert
David Wickert writes about transportation issues for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He previously worked for newspapers in Washington state, Illinois...