American Automobile Association

AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION

AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION (AAA), a federation of state and local automobile clubs, has been the principal advocate for American motorists since its formation in 1902. Until that time, the automobile club movement in the United States was dominated by the Automobile Club of America (ACA), an elite group of New York City automobilists who organized in 1899 with the intention of exerting national influence. Early clubs in other cities also followed the ACA pattern of restricted memberships, elaborate clubhouse and garage facilities, and an emphasis on social functions—along with making significant efforts to secure improved roads and national regulation of the motor vehicle. AAA, popularly known as Triple A, formed when nine local clubs recognized the need for a national federation to coordinate their efforts on the many matters of concern to motorists that transcended municipal and state boundaries. (Many states, for example, refused to recognize the licenses and registrations of out-of-state motorists, making interstate travel by automobile difficult.) By its 1909 annual meeting, AAA represented thirty state associations with 225 affiliated clubs and claimed 25,759 members.

With the burgeoning use of the automobile after 1910, the clubs constituting AAA increasingly became mass membership organizations, offering special services to members in addition to concerning themselves with the wide range of matters affecting all motorists. The Automobile Club of Missouri inaugurated emergency road service for its members in 1915, a service soon offered by all AAA clubs. Reflecting the increasing popularity of "motor touring" of the time, AAA issued its first domestic tour book in 1917 and in 1926 published its first series of tour books, issued the first modern-style AAA road maps, and began rating tourist accommodations.

The club has been active in lobbying for motorist-friendly road facilities from its inception. From the 1916 Federal Aid Highway Act through the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, to the present, AAA has pushed hard for toll-free improved highways and for highway beautification programs. It has also been a vocal critic of national highway policy at times, arguing against the diversion of motor-vehicle-use taxes into nonhighway expenditures.

Over the years, AAA has been one of the nation's leading advocates of highway safety. In the 1930s it published Sportsmanlike Driving, a forerunner of modern driver-safety textbooks, and helped pioneer traffic safety education classes in elementary and junior high schools. In 1955, AAA discontinued its long-standing sanction and supervision of all automobile racing as being inconsistent with the organization's many highway safety activities. During the late twentieth century, it devoted significant resources to a campaign against drunk driving.

In 1972, AAA had 875 clubs and branches throughout the United States and Canada, and membership passed the 15 million mark. By 2002 the organization had some 35 million members, and its emergency road service program required contracts with nearly 13,000 local providers.

James J.Flink/c. w.

See alsoAutomobile ; Automobile Industry ; Automobile Racing ; Automobile Safety ; Roads .

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