As the holiday season continues to ramp up, the Mississippi Department of Transportation is calling on residents to properly secure Christmas trees to their vehicles before attempting to drive them to their respective homes.
A 2019 study by AAA found that 16 percent of Americans experienced a Christmas tree falling out of their vehicle during transport. Road debris from unsecured loads, such as Christmas trees, was responsible for more than 200,000 crashes during a four-year period, resulting in approximately 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.
In addition to being a safety hazard, the debris contributes to roadside litter which costs Mississippi over $3 million each year to remove.
“Christmas trees that are not secured properly to your vehicle can easily put your safety, and the safety of other motorists, at risk,” MDOT Executive Director Brad White said. “Trees could become airborne and strike another vehicle. They could also come to rest in the road, creating a hazard for everyone.”
Whether the purchased tree is fresh-cut from the farm or purchased from a vendor, residents can safely transport it by taking the following steps:
- Use an appropriate vehicle. Christmas trees can be securely tied to roof racks. If you don’t have a rack, use the bed of a truck or the inside of an SUV or van.
- Tie the tree down with strong rope or nylon straps at several points along the trunk. Lightweight twine found at many tree lots may not be strong enough.
- The bottom of the trunk should point toward the front of the vehicle.
- Secure loose branches with netting, rope or twine.
- Always double-check the load to make sure it is secure.
- Drive slowly. Higher speeds create air resistance which can cause tie-downs to fail.
Motorists responsible for debris from unsecured loads could face fines up to $500 and up to six months in prison.