The Christmas season is in full swing, and that means people are searching for the perfect Christmas tree.
Finding that proper tree is one thing.
Getting it home is something else entirely.
According to a new AAA survey, an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real Christmas tree in the last three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle, risking serious vehicle damage and dangerous road debris.
In addition to vehicle damage, AAA cautions that Christmas trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other motorists.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris - which could include objects like improperly secured Christmas trees that fly off cars, landing on the road or on other cars - was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years.
So, if you want to get that Christmas tree home safe and sound, with no worries for anybody, start by using the right car for the job.
It’s best to transport a Christmas 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, van or minivan that can fit the tree inside with all doors closed.
Don't use the cut-rate tie downs or light twine to secure the tree to your car's roof rack. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree.
Protect the tree. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. And protect your vehicle. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
Point the trunk of the tree towards the front. Then tie the tree down, and secure it at its bottom, middle, and top. Give it a tug test to make sure it's secure.
Then drive slowly and use back roads if you can.
Higher speeds can create enough turbulent airflow to damage the tree and even thwart the most secure tie-down methods.
Drivers can face hefty fines and penalties as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle.
So keep the holiday safe and cheerful for everybody by making sure that, when you find the right Christmas tree, you don't find it sailing from the roof of your car to the road.