Christmas Tree Safety Tips

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas treeWhen Dec. 25 nears, few sights are more ubiquitous than holiday lights garnishing trees in backyards, flashing light strands circling pillars and candles aglow in business and home windows. Meanwhile, on the road, it's not uncommon to see Christmas trees on the back of trucks or strapped to the top of a passenger vehicle.

All too often, though - whether because they weren't strapped in correctly or the tree is too big for the vehicle - these trees can fall into the road. And if the trailing vehicle isn't paying attention, it can lead to a car insurance claim where the motorist who was carrying the tree may be held responsible.

The following tips can help you ensure that you get your Christmas tree from the local farm home in one piece.

  • Properly position the tree. One of the biggest questions people have is which way the tree should be facing. The answer to that largely depends on where it's being situated. For example, if the tree is being strapped to the roof of the car, the trunk end should be facing the front of the car. However, if it's in the back of a truck bed, the general rule is for the tree's trunk to be closest to the truck tailgate rather than the cab of the truck. 
  • Get tree that fits. While everyone may want the biggest tree possible so long as it fits into the house, it shouldn't be so big that it's larger than the car, whether length or width wise. It shouldn't extend any more than a few inches on either side of the vehicle.
  • Put something under tree. Blue spruce trees have especially sharp needles. But even softer varieties of Christmas trees can do a number on the exterior of a vehicle, causing scratches. It's a good idea to use a tarp or blanket so that swirl marks aren't a problem.
  • Secure tree to car with straps. Whether it's with a bungee cord, ratchet straps or a solid piece of rope, tying the tree to the vehicle is the most important part of Christmas tree transport. Having a roof rack makes the tying process a lot easier and is also safer than without one. There should be plenty of rope so that it can wrap around the tree several times, having enough to knot it when it's sufficiently secured.
  • Ask if tree can be netted. Many Christmas tree farm owners will put the tree that's been cut down into a large net, making the tree more cylindrical so that it can be transported easily to the car or truck. This also makes it easier to tie down to the roof of the car.

Once the tree has been tied down, there's also the matter of driving to be aware of. If possible, try to use roads that are straight and smooth, so as to avoid even the possibility of the tree becoming loose and falling off the vehicle. It's also important to maintain a safe distance from vehicles that are driving from behind. If they're close to the rear of the vehicle, it may be worthwhile to pull over and let them pass.

Additionally, even though a tree shouldn't extend more than a few inches past the front or rear of a vehicle, it's not illegal. However, you may need to put a flag on the tree if it's more than a specific distance. Speak to your local town representative about this rule.