AAA offers tips to get Christmas trees home safely

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AAA Northeast has some advice for safely buying and transporting your Christmas tree.

If not properly secured, a tree can cause vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals or distorted window frames, according to AAA officials. The tree could fly off or out of the vehicle and become a danger to other drivers.

A 2019 survey from AAA found that 44% of Americans who planned to purchase a real Christmas tree that year would use unsafe methods when transporting it home — such as not using the roof rack or placing it in the bed of a pickup truck unsecured. Previous research from AAA found that road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in nearly 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths. The roads can be treacherous enough during the holiday season with increased congestion and winter weather conditions without the addition of flying Christmas trees.

Trips from AAA:

• Call the tree lot ahead of time and ask about their policies for visiting. It is possible they may have reduced operating hours or are limiting the amount of people who can visit the lot at one time. It is also a good idea to ask when they are slow and plan to visit then.

• Make sure to bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves and 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.

• Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk of the tree facing the front of the car. If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is an SUV, CUV, van or minivan, then place the tree inside. If not, rent or borrow a pickup truck, a vehicle with a roof rack or one that is large enough to accommodate the tree inside.

• 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.

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