JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Christmas trees bring holiday cheer, but experts say there are several safety steps you need to take to avoid potential dangers while bringing a tree home.
A new AAA survey found 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 hazards to other drivers.
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 last four years. About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
That's why AAA is offering some tips to help you safely secure your tree:
First, before you go out to find the perfect tree, make sure you're in the right vehicle, such as one with a roof rack. Also, make sure you bring quality tie downs. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle.
Once you've picked out a tree at a store or Christmas tree lot, you'll need to protect the tree. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it.
You should also protect your vehicle. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches.
Point the trunk toward the front of the vehicle. Then, tie it down. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top.
Give it the tug test. Before you leave, give the tree several strong tugs to make sure it is securely in place.
On your way home, drive slow and easy. Take the back roads, if possible.
Once you get back home, be careful not to damage the vehicle when you remove the tree. Make sure to remove any sap from the paint immediately.