BOISE – Many Americans are in search of a little holiday cheer, and this weekend, some will purchase a real Christmas tree to help make the season merry and bright.  But hauling it home can be risky business.  To help avoid a holiday mishap, AAA is sharing tips to safely transport a tree.

According to previous AAA research, road debris caused more than 200,000 crashes over a four-year period, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.  Like any other large object, Christmas trees must be properly secured in order to protect others from being hurt.

“Buying a Christmas tree during a pandemic is going to look a little different.  And every year, some people fail to tie down their tree the right way, causing serious damage to their vehicles and to other road users,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho.  “We want everyone to get their holiday celebration started on a positive note.”

AAA estimates that an improperly secured tree can cause as much as $1,500 in damage to paint, rubber seals around doors and windows, and bent window frames.

Buying a tree during the pandemic

  • Do not visit a tree lot if you or anyone in your immediate circle has tested positive for COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-related symptoms.
  • Call ahead. Some tree lots may have restrictions on the number of customers that can be served at a time.  Ask the attendant to recommend a time when there will be fewer visitors.
  • Be prepared. Even though most lots are outside, you may need to wear a mask at times in order to comply with health and safety guidelines, like when you’re waiting in line near other people.  Practice physical distancing, and don’t forget the hand sanitizer.

Securing a tree

  • Plan ahead by bringing the proper tools for the job – rope, bungees, or nylon straps, an old blanket, and gloves.
  • Bring the right vehicle. One with a roof rack is the best option, but a pickup truck, SUV or minivan can do the trick.
  • Have the lot wrap the tree in netting before you load it. Place a blanket on the roof of the vehicle to prevent paint damage, then position the tree with the trunk facing forward.
  • Secure the tree at the top, bottom, and middle. Use sturdy rope or straps, not the twine provided at the lot.  Make sure you loop the rope around the trunk so as to prevent front-to-rear and side-to-side movement.  Double-check your work by giving the tree several tugs from various angles.

Bringing a tree home

  • If you’re driving a van or SUV, try to transport your tree inside the vehicle instead of on the roof if space allows.
  • Drive slowly and take back roads if possible. Faster speeds can create airflow that may damage the tree or cause ropes and straps to fail.

“When you head home, ditch the distractions, including the radio, so that you can hear any noises that might suggest that the tree is coming loose,” Conde said.  “And after you get the tree up in your home, please take the necessary steps to ensure that it will not become a fire hazard.”