AAA says safely secure your Christmas trees

Posted at 5:52 AM, Dec 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-01 09:15:47-05

ATLANTA (WTXL) – An improperly secured Christmas tree could cost thousands in vehicle repairs, insurance claims and penalties, AAA is warning.

A new AAA survey says an estimated 20 million Americans who bought a real Christmas tree in the last three years failed to secure it properly to their vehicles.

The drivers risked serious vehicle damage and causing 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.

"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 Greg Brannon, director of Automotive Engineering and Industry Relations. "Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack."

A Christmas tree falling off a vehicle could become a safety hazard for other drivers, posing a liability concern and possible fines and penalties.

Drivers can face hefty fines, penalties and jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle.

Every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road.

A violator in Georgia could face a penalty of up to $5,000 or up to 12 months in prison. Other states’ penalties result in fines ranging from $10 to $5,000. At least 15 other states list jail as a possible punishment for offenders.

Drivers can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their loads.

Road debris was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that caused 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from vehicles.

AAA urges all drivers to transport their Christmas trees safely this holiday season 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. But 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 tie downs. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine  many tree lots offer.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.

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