AAA, PennDOT Urge Drivers to Safely Secure Holiday Trees

Millions of drivers facing expensive damage and fines from improperly secured trees

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According to a new AAA survey, an estimated 20 million Americans who purchased a real holiday tree in the last three years did not properly secure it to their vehicle, risking serious vehicle damage, dangerous road debris, and hefty fines.  With that, AAA East Central and PennDOT are urging all drivers to transport their holiday trees safely this holiday season.

“While there is no question that a real tree can add something special to your home during the holidays, drivers need to take the dangers of an improperly secured tree seriously,” said Theresa Podguski, AAA East Central Director of Legislative Affairs.  “Not only could you be putting other lives at risk, you could be setting yourself up for costly repairs to your own vehicle.”

Risks of Driving with an Improperly Secured Holiday Tree:
Holiday trees that are not properly secured are a safety hazard for other drivers.  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, road debris – which could include objects like improperly secured Holiday 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 past four years.  About two-thirds of debris-related crashes are the result of improperly secured items falling from a vehicle.

Drivers can face hefty fines and penalties as well as jail time if an unsecured tree falls off their vehicle. According to PennDOT, Pennsylvania drivers can face a range of fines for items that fall from their vehicle on the road. 

“The holidays are a time for the peace and joy of sharing life with family and friends,” said PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards.  “No matter what drivers are traveling with, we’re urging them to secure it properly so it does not become a hazard for others.”

Additionally, twine that is wrapped around trees and looped through door jambs or open windows can cause serious damage to door seals and window frames, which could cost up to $1,500 to repair. 

AAA & PennDOT Tips for Safely Securing a Holiday Tree:

  • Prepare before you head out.  Make sure before you leave to purchase your tree, you have rope or ratchet straps, an old blanket, gloves, and the right vehicle.  A vehicle with a roof rack is best, but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan are also suitable.
  • Use quality tie downs. 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.
  • Protect the tree. Have the tree wrapped in netting before loading it. If netting is unavailable, secure loose branches with rope or twine.  Consider using a sturdy tarp to cover the tree.
  • Protect your vehicle. 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.  Also, give the tree a visual inspection, looking for any chance of debris or cargo falling or blowing out.
  • Drive slowly and easily. Take the back roads, if possible.  Higher speeds create significant airflow that can damage your holiday tree and challenge even the best tie-down methods.

AAA East Central is a not-for-profit association with 81 local offices in Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia serving 2.7 million members.  News releases are available at news.eastcentral.aaa.com.  Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

For More Information, Contact:
Jim Garrity, Public & Community Relations Manager
Desk: 412-365-7274 / Cell: 412-905-9021 / Email: Garrity.James@aaaec.com

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