TOPEKA, Kan. – Dec. 1, 2017 – It's that time of year when many Kansans set out in search of the perfect real Christmas tree, then haphazardly 'tie one on' – a dangerous practice for those who don't know the ropes, warns AAA Kansas.
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 endangering others on the road.
“Twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames – damage that could cost up to $1,500 to repair,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Drivers should never secure a Christmas tree to the top of a vehicle without a roof rack.”
(B-Roll video of the proper way to transport a tree on top of a vehicle: https://vimeo.com/243902536/00c74e3080)
In addition to the vehicle damage, Christmas trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other drivers.
"Throwing a tree on a vehicle and not securing it or carelessly tying it on could present a serious road danger if it comes loose and flies off into traffic," Steward said.
According to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris (such as a Christmas tree flying off a car) was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes nationwide that resulted in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths over the past four years. And, about two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.
In Kansas, there are about 150 “unsecured load crashes” each year, resulting in an average of one or two fatalities.
Fortunately, Christmas trees can be safely transported, AAA Kansas says, by taking the following steps:
- Use the right vehicle. 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.
- Bring proper tools. Bring strong rope or nylon ratchet straps to secure the tree to your vehicle’s roof rack. Avoid the lightweight twine offered by many tree lots. Bring an old blanket and gloves.
- Protect the tree - and your vehicle. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine. Use an old blanket to prevent paint scratches and protect the vehicle finish.
- Point the trunk towards the front. 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. At the bottom, use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop around the trunk above a lower branch, to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement. The center and top tie downs should be installed in a similar manner. Give it the tug test. 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 the back roads, if possible. Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your Christmas tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.
“In addition to the roadway hazards and vehicle damage that can result from improperly securing a Christmas tree when transporting it, drivers can also face a traffic ticket and hefty fine for an unsecured load,” AAA Kansas’ Steward added.
Kansas traffic statute 8-1906(c) states that “No person shall operate on any highway any vehicle with any load unless such load and any covering thereon is securely fastened so as to prevent the covering or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to other users of the highway.” Violation of this law is a misdemeanor, with fine amounts determined by the courts, likely $75 plus court costs.
Drivers can prevent injuries and avoid penalties by properly securing their Christmas trees to prevent them from falling off the vehicle.
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