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It’s that time of the year again when families across the country start decking the halls with boughs of holly. From twinkle lights to Santa’s sleigh on the roof, nothing says “holidays” more than a huge Christmas tree in the middle of your living room. 

But getting your tree home is often the most difficult part of kicking off the holidays. Are you safely transporting yours home? Or like many Americans, are you posing a road hazard every year in pursuit of the holiday spirit? 

According to a report by AAA Traffic Safety, road debris, including fallen Christmas trees, has resulted in 200,000 crashes, nearly 40,000 injuries and 500 deaths from 2013 to 2017. This data had us wondering just how many people actually know the proper way to transport a Christmas tree. As it turns out, most Americans aren’t driving their tree home safely. 

We surveyed 1,500 Americans about their Christmas tree transportation process and the findings were quite alarming. Keep reading to discover the rest of the results from our survey — it’ll sure make you a tad more cautious when driving near a car with anything tied to the roof. 

Oh Deer: Brace Your Elves for These Findings

The main question of our survey was to learn exactly how Americans were tying their Christmas trees to their cars. Shockingly, only 40 percent of respondents answered correctly — which is to only transport a Christmas tree with sturdy ties and when your car has roof racks or your truck bed has fixed tying points. 

Surely, most Christmas tree shoppers aren’t posing a road hazard on purpose. Whether they didn’t know roof racks are a must, or thought they could still safely transport a tree without them, here are some more worrisome findings from our poll. 

You might assume it’s younger generations that choose to ignore transportation safety, but as it turns out, Gen X and baby boomers pay less attention to proper tree transportation etiquette. 

It seems like many of our respondents simply try to get their tree home however they can. But with potentially poor winter road conditions, improperly tying a Christmas tree can be quite dangerous for everyone on the road. From causing road debris to damaging your car, knowing how to safely secure a tree should be a priority.

The Costs of an Improperly Secured Christmas Tree

Every year, an estimated 20 million Americans don’t properly secure their Christmas trees, which can potentially damage their cars and turn their trees into dangerous road debris. 

From roof damage and scratched paint to torn door seals and cracked window frames, damage from an improperly secured Christmas tree can cost upwards of $1,500 to repair. 

Depending on where you live, dropping something on the road can also result in a hefty fine. In Washington, for example, causing road debris can cost you up to $5,000 or 12 months in prison — there go the Christmas gifts. 

Here’s a look at what an improperly secured Christmas tree could cost you if it flies off your car.

To help you avoid a fine and hopefully get your tree home in one piece, check out our comprehensive guide and handy tips below on the proper way to tie a Christmas tree to the roof of your car. 

How to Safely Drive Your Christmas Tree Home

So how do you safely tie a Christmas tree to the roof of your car? First and foremost, you must use an appropriate car for your tree — make sure you’re equipped with roof racks or a truck bed. If you have a small car or one without roof racks, we recommend renting the appropriate car before heading out to purchase your tree. Once that’s settled, follow our step-by-step instructions and tips below to keep your tree from becoming road debris.

  1. Bring the right car. When transporting your tree on top of your vehicle, an SUV with roof racks or a pick-up truck with fixed tying points is the safest option. You can also use a van or a minivan if the tree fits completely inside of the car with all the doors and windows closed. 
  1. Use quality ties. Purchase sturdy rope or nylon ratchet straps when tying your tree to your car’s roof rack. Most twine offered at Christmas tree lots isn’t strong enough to safely hold your tree, especially in high-speed winds. 
  1. Wrap your tree. Before loading, wrap your tree in netting, twine, plastic or tarp to avoid any damage as it’s transported. 
  1. Protect your vehicle. Place a blanket or tarp to the roof of your car to prevent any scratches or dents on your vehicle.
  1. Point the tree trunk towards the front of your car. When placing your tree on a roof rack or truck bed, always place it with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of your vehicle. This allows for a smoother ride and helps prevent damage to the tree. 
  1. Tie it down evenly. When using tie downs, be sure to have enough to secure your tree at the top, center and bottom. For added security, always loop the tie downs around the trunk at every point — this will prevent your tree from sliding to the sides or down the roof of your car. 
  1. Tug it tightly. Before driving home, tug the ties at every one of your tying points to make sure everything is secure.
  1. Drive slowly. If possible, avoid heavily trafficked roads and highways. High winds can not only damage your tree, but risk it falling off your car. If you can’t avoid highways, drive at the lowest safe speed and keep to the right lanes.  

When tying your tree, be sure to ask for help loading it to avoid any injuries. Employees at your local lot may also have a little more experience tying knots so ask for assistance or at least have them double check your ties. 

Not only should you transport your Christmas tree a certain way, but there are a handful of tips that will help you get from the lot to your driveway safely. 

Now that you know how to safely tie your tree to the roof of your car, you’re ready to sleigh the Christmas tree tying game. As you check off your holiday shopping list, remember to check traffic and weather conditions, and have a backup parking plan before you leave to ensure a smooth journey.

If you’re planning a road trip for the holidays, consider renting a car equipped to drive in winter road conditions and comfortably carry your belongings. When heading up to the mountains, keep in mind that high-clearance vehicles with all-wheel drive are your safest bet in wet or rocky terrain. Happy holidays and safe travels!