AAA: Improperly secured trees a holiday hazard

Selecting, buying and decorating a tree is a magical holiday tradition for many. But it can all go sour if a tree isn’t properly secured when being transported from the tree farm to the living room.

According to AAA Northeast, improperly secured Christmas trees can become holiday roadway hazards if they fall from vehicles while on the move.

An estimated 20 million Americans, who purchased live Christmas trees in the last three years, didn’t properly secure the evergreens to their vehicles, a AAA survey reported. As result, falling trees become dangerous road debris, can cause serious vehicle damage, and injuries to other roadway users.

“An improperly secured tree, especially one transported on a car without a roof rack, can certainly also compromise your driving abilities and that of others on the road,” warns Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast spokeswoman, in a new release.

She said road debris, including improperly secured trees, has been responsible for more than 200,000 nationwide crashes over the last four years, the survey said. These crashes in turn resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

In Connecticut, 374 crashes — an average of more than 1 crash a day — occurred because of road debris, according to the University of Connecticut Crash Data Repository.

To help avoid a tree travesty this season, AAA Northeast offers the following tips:

The right place: The best option is to use the bed of a pickup truck, an SUV or a vehicle roof rack to move a tree. However, if those options aren’t available, use a properly secured blanket or egg crate-type mattress protect your vehicle’s roof finish.

The right tools: Use quality tie downs such as strong rope, twine or nylon ratchet straps. Wrap the tree in netting, a blanket or plastic to make sure no loose limbs impede your vision or can injure car occupants.

The right technique: Position the tree’s trunk toward the front of the vehicle on the roof rack or the pickup bed. Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top. To prevent side-to-side or front-to-rear movement, secure the tree using the fixed vehicle tie-down points. Loop the tie-down around the trunk, above a lower branch and install the center and top tie downs in a similar manner. Give the tree several tugs from various directions to make sure it’s secure.

The right driving: Reduce your speed and be smooth with your steering, accelerating and braking. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage the tree and compromise the best tie-down methods.