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Follow safety guidelines for tree transport

FARGO – Nothing will make you say “bah humbug” faster than losing the live Christmas tree you just bought on the drive home, according to AAA-The Auto Club Group.

“If not properly secured, a tree can damage your vehicle, or worse, fly off and become a danger to other drivers,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota director of public affairs for AAA.

One AAA study found nearly one in five real Christmas tree buyers reported having a tree fall off or out of their vehicle when trying to get it home. Additionally, 44% of Americans admit to transporting a tree using unsafe methods, such as tying the tree to their vehicles without using a roof rack or placing the tree in the bed of their pickup trucks unsecured.

Dangers of improper transport include road debris, which caused more than 200,000 crashes from 2011-2014, resulting in about 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths. It includes vehicle damage such as scratched paint, torn door seals and distorted window frames, costing up to $1,500 to repair.

It’s best to transport the tree on top of a vehicle equipped with a roof rack, but a pickup truck, SUV, van or minivan can work just as well.

Safety tips include:

® Come prepared with strong rope or nylon ratchet straps, an old blanket and gloves.

® Have the lot wrap the tree in netting before loading it. Loose branches also can be secured with rope or twine.

® Before loading the tree, cover the roof with an old blanket to prevent scratches to the paint and protect the car from any damage.

® Place the tree on the roof rack or in the bed of the truck with the tree trunk facing the front of the car.

® Tie down the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Avoid using the nylon offered by many tree lots. Use fixed vehicle tie-down points and loop the rope or strap around the tree trunk above a branch to prevent any side-to-side or front-to-rear movement

® Once tied down, give the tree several strong tugs from various angles to make sure it is secured in place and will not come loose.

® Drive slowly and take back roads if possible.

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