A Century of Service
Almost immediately after the first horseless carriages appeared on America’s roads, motorists began organizing automobile clubs.
In 1902, only 23,000 cars were in operation in this country compared with 17 million horses. Yet, 50 small motor clubs had been formed by motoring enthusiasts across the country. Nine of those clubs joined together to create a national motoring organization and on March 4, 1902, in Chicago, founded the American Automobile Association.
More than 100 years have passed, but from its inception, AAA has dedicated itself to the future of transportation through support of safe, efficient highways and a multi-modal transportation system that is accessible and affordable to everyone.
Fight for Better Roads
At the turn of the century, existing roads had been designed for the horse and buggy — not the automobile. Traveling on those dirt paths was often risky, and AAA’s earliest goal was to lead a fight for improvements in the nation’s roads — ones which could better accommodate automobile traffic.
By 1916, AAA had won a major battle in its campaign for better roads when the principle of federal aid to highways was initiated.
The activities of AAA’s affiliated clubs have covered a wide range of issues and interests since 1902. AAA’s nationwide campaign, “Crisis Ahead: America’s Aging Highways and Airways,” focused attention on the nation’s deteriorating highways and airways and seeks ways to correct this growing problem. It calls for increased spending of existing funds in the highway and aviation trust funds for badly needed improvements on the nation’s highways, bridges and air traffic control system. AAA’s Making America Stronger was designed to provide consumers with information and insight into current transportation issues.
Over the years, the AAA federation of clubs has fought hard for the legal rights of motorists and travelers and has sought to make car ownership and travel a more pleasurable experience through increased services to members.
Roadside assistance is synonymous with AAA. In 1915, AAA was the first to introduce service at the roadside for stranded motorists and to this day, it is still one of the most valued features of membership. Each year, on average, AAA responds to nearly 30 million calls for roadside assistance.
In 1975, AAA created its Approved Auto Repair (AAR) program to address one of the most frequent consumer complaints – dissatisfaction with finding a reputable and affordable automobile repair shop. AAR facilities are first-rate shops that regularly meet AAA’s stringent, industry-leading standards. There are 7,000 auto repair facilities throughout the United States and Canada that have been awarded this exclusive designation. AAA’s AAR program takes the guesswork out of finding a facility, offering peace of mind to the consumer and a more pleasant automotive repair experience.
American members can request road service by calling 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357), going online to AAA.com/Help, or using the AAA Mobile app for Android or iPhone.
Just five years after its founding, AAA established a bureau of touring information to supply members travel information on roads, hotels, service facilities and motor vehicle laws.
AAA soon began producing its own maps, road logs and series of TourBook® travel guides.
In 1937, AAA began field inspections of lodgings and restaurants. In 1976, the early rating system evolved into the Diamond Rating System for lodgings. A diamond was chosen as AAA’s rating symbol in honor of the association’s 75th anniversary. In 1985, AAA began assigning Diamond Ratings for restaurants. To keep pace with the phenomenal growth in travel abroad, a foreign travel department was established in 1927 to handle steamship tickets and shipment of members’ cars overseas.
Gradually AAA initiated additional services and is now one of the largest travel organizations in the world, offering complete domestic and foreign travel services via its travel agency network, AAA.com and the AAA Mobile app.
The rapidly increasing number of cars on the road brought about a similar increase in motor vehicle crashes. Prevention of traffic crashes became an early concern of AAA clubs.
In 1920, the AAA-sponsored School Safety Patrol program — children protecting classmates from traffic dangers — was established and expanded nationwide. AAA also introduced traffic safety education into elementary and junior high schools, and pioneered driver education in high schools. AAA’s Responsible Driving textbook, first published in the 1930s as Sportsmanlike Driving, has become the most widely used book in its field.
AAA has been actively involved for more than 40 years in reducing the drunken-driver problem. AAA’s alcohol education programs are used by thousands of communities to address the traffic safety issues associated with alcohol abuse. AAA has programs appropriate for people of all ages from elementary school students through senior adults.
During the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, AAA initiated weekly Fuel Gauge Reports — a canvassing of stations across the nation to advise motorists on gasoline availability, prices and hours of operation. AAA currently offers nationwide daily gas prices through the AAA Fuel Gauge Report which also offers expert commentary on the factors affecting prices at the pump. The AAA Fuel Cost Calculator assists travelers in estimating the cost of gas for a trip, or comparing costs for different vehicles. In addition, AAA’s unequaled Fuel Research examines different types of fuel in an effort to help drivers make smart decisions at the pump. AAA’s fuel information is also available for smart phones at AAA.com/mobile.
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