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AAA: Tips for safe Christmas tree transport

December has arrived, which means thousands of families will be heading out in the coming days to find the perfect Christmas tree. But that’s the easy part. Unless you happen to have a large truck at your disposal, one of the biggest headaches of the holiday season is finding a way to get a six-foot-plus tree from the lot to the living room in one piece.

AAA Alabama has a few tips for safe tree transportation, to make sure tree, vehicle and fellow drivers stay safe. If not properly secured, trees can shift during transport, causing damage to the vehicle, making it hard for the driver to see, or, worst case, falling off completely. A survey conducted by the company in 2019 showed a whopping 44 percent of Americans who planned to buy a real tree would use an unsafe method to get it home. These include placing a tree in the bed of a truck without securing it or putting it on the roof without using a rack.

Trees that do fall off vehicles can cause serious damage and injury. Over a four-year-period, AAA found that debris in the road caused more than 200,000 crashes, resulting in around 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

So how to stay safe this holiday season? Follow these tips from AAA to make Christmas tree transportation easy and secure, and remember to avoid visiting a tree lot if you or a member of your household is quarantining due to COVID-19.

  • Call the 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, when crowds may be smaller.
  • Although most lots are located outside, it is recommended to wear a face covering and practice social distancing. Bring hand sanitizer and keep it nearby while shopping.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the trunk facing the front of the car. If the vehicle does not have a roof rack and is a SUV, van or minivan, 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.
  • Prior to loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage.
  • 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.
  • 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.