Every year, millions of Americans who purchased a “real” holiday tree don’t properly secure it to their vehicle, risking vehicle damage, dangerous road debris and fines, according to AAA East Central.
“There is no question that a real tree can add something special to your home during the holidays, but motorists need to take transporting them seriously,” said Theresa Podguski, director of legislative affairs for AAA East Central, in a release.
Drivers can face fines and penalties, as well as jail time, if an unsecured tree falls off a vehicle. Currently, every state has laws that make it illegal for items to fall from a vehicle while on the road. Fines range from $10 to $5,000, with at least 16 states listing jail as a possible punishment for offenders, the release says.
Additionally, twine that is looped through door jambs or open windows can damage door seals and window frames, leading to repair bills.
Use the right vehicle. It’s best to transport a holiday 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 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 the 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 scratches and protect the finish.
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. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points when available.
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 back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage the tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, email@example.com or via Twitter @shirley_trib.