It’s that time of year again, time to get a tree and get it home to decorate. This is my baby’s first Christmas (she’s only 4 months so she won’t remember). Luckily for us I went with an artificial tree because I think my 4 cats would think of a real tree as an in home climbing toy, even as I sit writing I can hear my 4 cats bating away at the unbreakable ornaments as they smack them off the tree.

So what do you do if you want a real tree and how do you get it home? Don’t pull a Clark Griswold; start planning how to get your tree 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?

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. Both 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. They affect 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 car to take your tree home, find a friend with a more capable vehicle. Even better: Some Christmas tree lots deliver.

When all else fails, you can always buy an artificial tree and save yourself the trouble. Have a good one and as always DRIVE SAFE!

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