Ah, that fresh pine scent that means the holidays are here. Cut Christmas trees bring us joy and beauty, but they also can bring fines and a lifetime of regret if an unsecured tree causes a serious crash. Once you’ve picked out the perfect tree and need to transport it home, securing it using nets, tarps, or tie-downs is a vital step in keeping our roads safe. Unsecured loads also can mean citations of $500 or more, which could cut into your gift-giving budget. In Maricopa County, more than 800 traffic crashes were reported in 2020 due to falling objects on freeways, resulting in seven preventable deaths. Don’t Trash Arizona , a program implemented by the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG), wants to ensure that your holiday tree does not contribute to those statistics by becoming a dangerous road hazard. “Unsecured trees can end up in the roadway and cause serious crashes and delays on our freeways,” says Avondale Mayor Kenn Weise, who is chair of the MAG Regional Council. “With so many residents and visitors on our roadways this time of year, it’s more important than ever to ensure everyone’s safety while transporting holiday decorations and Christmas trees.” When the season is over, Don’t Trash Arizona encourages recycling Christmas trees and recommends visiting individual city websites for locations to deliver the trees for proper disposal. Make sure you also secure the tree when transporting to those locations. Please don’t burn your trees for disposal – it adds to air pollution. Here are a few tips for securing those holiday trees: Tie it Down: Wherever you are transporting your tree, it needs to be strapped down. This is easier when the branches are first tied down around the tree. Once the tree is held tightly together, drivers should securely strap the tree directly to their vehicles with rope, bungee cords or netting. The tree, just like any large load, should be able to withstand winds up to 70 miles per hour while on the freeway. Often, twine available at Christmas tree lots is not strong enough to be safe. Cover it Up: Drivers should cover the tree with a sturdy tarp, canvas or netting to ensure smaller clippings and branches do not fly off while traveling. It’s important to remember to secure the tarp to the vehicle as well, so it does not become littered debris itself. Point it in the Right Direction: To avoid added headwind, which may loosen the branches, drivers should arrange the tree so that the stump end faces the front of the vehicle. And as a courtesy to others, trees that extend past the vehicle’s bumper should have a reflective flag tied to the end to alert other drivers. Double Check: Loads can shift and tie downs may become loose during transit. Remember to check the load frequently to make sure the top, back and sides are all secured throughout the trip. In addition to strong winds, the load should be able to withstand sudden braking and hitting bumps while on the road. Ask Yourself: Drivers should ask, “Is there any chance of debris falling or blowing out of my vehicle?” “Would I feel safe if I was driving behind my vehicle?” “What would happen to my load if I had to brake suddenly or if I hit a bump?” Additional information on the hazards of unsecured loads is available on Don’t Trash Arizona’s website at DontTrashArizona.com . About Don’t Trash Arizona Don't Trash Arizona is a joint effort between the Maricopa Association of Governments and the Arizona Department of Transportation to address the economic, safety, and health impacts of freeway litter along regional and state highways. The program is funded through Proposition 400, which was approved by voters in 2004. That funding encompasses litter pickup, sweeping, and landscape maintenance, as well as litter education and prevention. Don't Trash Arizona seeks to change attitudes, awareness, and most importantly, behavior, when it comes to roadway littering. Visit DontTrashArizona.com .