Editor's note: This post was updated on Nov. 29, 2013.
You survived Thanksgiving dinner. Let's make sure the same is true when it comes to bringing home your Christmas tree. Don't pull a Clark Griswold; start planning how to get your tree and the Family Truckster home without becoming a road hazard.
Vehicle-related road debris is estimated to cause more than 250,000 crashes a year and claim 81 to 90 lives, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
What's the best way to keep your tree from becoming a statistic? Rick Dungey, National Christmas Tree Association spokesman, recommends trusting the experts. "If someone at the farm or lot where you buy the tree offers advice on the best way for you to transport your tree, take it. Those folks deal with thousands of trees per year and you deal with one," he told Cars.com.
To make sure your Christmas tree makes it all the way home, the National Christmas Tree Association helped us compile few tips about getting your tree home in one piece:
- Get your Christmas tree netted before leaving the lot to make it more manageable. If it's going on the roof, the trunk should be facing front. Doing both these things will help reduce wind damage to the foliage.
- Make sure to select a tree that will either fit inside your cargo area or, if you have a roof rack, on top of your roof properly. Also ensure that you have enough rope or cord to wrap around the tree and secure it to the roof rack or to cargo hooks.
- Place a tarp or blanket over the cargo area to protect the interior from loose needles. If you're going to place the tree on the roof, place a tarp, plastic sheet or blanket between the tree and the rack to protect the roof from scratches.
- If you are transporting a tree in the back of a pickup truck, keep in mind that there could be hot spots in the bed—from the exhaust pipe, for example. This can damage the tree's foliage, so put something under it like an old blanket.
- Before leaving the lot, give the tree a good tug to make sure it's secure.
- Drive slowly and avoid the highway, especially if you're not used to hauling heavy objects on your roof. The extra weight affects your vehicle's center of gravity and consequently emergency handling.
We don't recommend tying a tree on your car's roof without a roof rack. If you don't have the proper vehicle to take your tree home, find a friend with a more capable vehicle. Even better: Some Christmas tree lots deliver.
Once home, Dungey recommends getting the tree out of the wind and sun as soon as possible. Even if you're not putting it in the stand right away, he says putting it in a bucket of water will minimize damage to the foliage.
When all else fails, there's always an artificial tree!