Last week, the Sudbury, Massachusetts Police Department made national news when it posted a Christmas tree photo on its Facebook page. The unwrapped tree, which was on top of a Mazda 5 minivan, hung over the sides and rear of the vehicle, covering the windows and even concealing the license plate. Police commented that an officer had stopped the car on Route 20, and did not confirm whether the driver was cited for any offenses, although the Facebook post urged viewers to “transport your holiday trees responsibly.”

According to a recent news release from AAA, an estimated 20 million people who bought a real Christmas tree since 2014 did not secure it properly to their car before taking to the roads, risking car damage and creating a dangerous driving situation. Representatives of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said that road debris, which could conceivably include poorly secured Christmas trees that fly off vehicles, was a factor in over 200,000 car crashes in the last four years, resulting in 500 deaths and 39,000 injuries.

If you plan to purchase a real evergreen tree this year and bring it home by car, then take the following steps to help ensure a safe trip.

  • When possible, use a vehicle that has a roof rack. If this isn’t an option, then try to use a pickup truck or a van that can fit the tree inside and close the doors. Use an old blanket to protect the vehicle finish from being scratched and prevent dripping sap from damaging the paint.
  • Wrap the tree in netting or secure its branches with rope before loading it onto your vehicle. This will prevent loose branches from suddenly falling across your line of vision.
  • Secure the tree to the roof rack using nylon ratchet straps. Do not use the twine or lightweight rope that tree lots generally offer. Tie the tree down at the bottom, middle, and top to prevent front-to-rear or side-to-side movement.
  • Before leaving the tree lot, tug on the tree from various angles to confirm that it is securely attached to the vehicle and will not blow away.

Once you leave the lot, drive slowly and carefully. If you’re not used to transporting heavy objects on the roof of your car, then try to take the back roads home. Large trees can make a car difficult to handle in an emergency situation, as they affect the vehicle’s center of gravity.

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts incident confirms that many drivers are expected to transport their Christmas trees in an unsafe manner this season. If you or someone you love are injured as a result, then contact a New York personal injury attorney who can help you hold the negligent party responsible for their actions, so you get the full compensation you are entitled to. Jayson Lutzky is a New York personal injury lawyer. If you were hurt in an accident, and are seeking compensation, then contact Mr. Lutzky at 718-514-6619. He offers free in-person initial consultations.