By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – It’s the time of year when families head to farms, stores, and local tree lots to display in their homes this holiday season.

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However, the transportation of those trees is just as important as decorating them.

AAA East Central is reminding drivers to make sure those trees are safely secured so they don’t become a dangerous projectile.

“A real tree can add that special touch to your home’s holiday decor, but motorists need to use caution when transporting a live tree,” said Terri Rae Anthony, safety advisor, AAA East Central. “Negligence could mean you are putting other lives at risk and you could be setting yourself up for costly repairs to your own vehicle.”

Research from AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety found that more than 200,000 crashes involved debris on U.S. roadways over a four-year period, resulting in 39,000 injuries and 500 deaths.

AAA recommends using the right vehicle to transport a tree, meaning on top of a vehicle with a roof rack. If that isn’t an option, use the bed of a pickup truck, or an SUV, or a minivan that can fit the tree inside with the doors closed.

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Quality tie-downs are also necessary, meaning strong rope or nylon ratchet straps that will secure the tree to the roof. They recommend avoiding the lightweight twine lots offered with the tree.

Protecting the tree is also crucial, making sure the tree is wrapped in netting before loading it, or securing loose branches with rope or twine.

It’s also recommended to use an old blanket when putting the tree on the vehicle to protect the vehicle’s paint and finish.

Loading the tree onto the vehicle is also something to be aware of.

Always place the tree on a roof rack or in a pickup bed with the bottom of the trunk facing the front of the vehicle.

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Most importantly, as always, drive slowly and easily. Higher speeds can create airflow that can damage the tree and even challenge the best tie-down methods.