What’s the History and Background Behind AAA?
Last Updated on July 19, 2023
The American Automobile Association (AAA) is a collection of motor clubs across the United States and Canada. ‘Triple-A’ has 60 million members across North America. Members enjoy benefits like roadside assistance, insurance, and travel perks.
Many drivers have heard of AAA, but few know the history of the organization. Today, we’re explaining a brief history of AAA and its role in building driving culture across the United States.
Early History of AAA
AAA was founded on March 4, 1902 in Chicago. Drivers were disappointed at the lack of roads and highways suitable for cars in the United States. A group of nine motor clubs with 1,500 members joined together to create AAA.
The founding motor clubs included the Automobile Club of America, the Automobile Club of New Jersey, the Chicago Automobile Club, and six others. In its early days, motor clubs across the United States continued to join AAA. The Automobile Club of Buffalo joined AAA in 1903, for example. The organization started to gain momentum, bringing together thousands of drivers from all corners of the country.
In 1904, two of America’s largest auto clubs merged together. AAA merged with the American Motor League, which had been the very first American automobile organization. AAA became an early authority on driving in the United States.
Early 1900s: AAA Launches Its First Products and Services
AAA was one of the first organizations in the United States to create road maps. America had a rapidly growing network of roads – but drivers struggled to navigate these roads. There were few reputable sources for directions. AAA created that resource for drivers, publishing its first road maps in 1905.
In 1917, AAA started to publish hotel guides. AAA ranked and rated hotels across the United States. With the help of AAA, drivers could drive across the country and know where to stay along the way.
With driving becoming more common, drivers needed a place to learn. AAA was one of the first major organizations in the United States to offer driver training. In 1920, AAA launched its School Safety Patrol Program, helping new drivers learn to safely drive. This program provided local schools with badges, ID cards, and other materials to help students learn to drive.
In 1947, AAA spun its driver safety services into a separate organization called the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This organization continues to publish driver safety information today.
Other notable products and services launched by AAA around this time included:
Racing Board (1902): In 1902, AAA launched the Racing Board, later known as the Contest Board, to organize car races. This organization sanctioned the Indianapolis 500 and other major automobile racing championships across the United States. AAA officially re-entered the automobile racing world in 2005 when it sponsored ISC-owned tracks and partnered with a NASCAR driver for an endorsement.
Sportsmanlike Driving (1935): AAA launched a driving course for high school teaches in 1935 called Sportsmanlike Driving. This course outlined an education curriculum for new drivers.
Pedestrian Protection Program (1937): AAA launched its Pedestrian Protection Program in 1937 in recognition that vehicles were increasingly dangerous to pedestrians. Around this time, AAA also published pedestrian safety statistics, providing nationwide attention to the dangers drivers posed to pedestrians – and how pedestrians could stay safe.
Keep ‘em Rolling Campaign (1944): AAA encouraged drivers to conserve fuel and use synthetic rubber tires during World War II to help the war effort. AAA released several promotional campaigns during World War II, including the Keep ‘em Rolling campaign in 1944, which encouraged drivers to use scrap rubber tires to aid the war effort, saving ‘real’ rubber for military vehicles and equipment.
AAA in the Post-War Years
After World War II, AAA continued to expand its products and services across the United States. More Americans were driving than ever before, and an increasing number of Americans were buying one or more vehicles.
During these years, AAA released various promotional campaigns encouraging safe driving. They launched a film called Traffic Jam Ahead, for example, which highlighted practical driver safety tips. They also launched a campaign called Take It Easy in 1946 designed to reduce traffic fatalities.
Following AAA’s driver safety campaign, traffic fatalities dropped 20% nationwide compared to the pre-war years.
AAA and the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (1966)
One of AAA’s biggest contributions to American driving culture took place in 1966 when the organization helped draft the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, legislation that continues to influence driving in the United States today.
The United States government partnered with AAA to set safety standards for automobiles, tires, and equipment. Up to this point, there were few nationwide standards on vehicles, and manufacturers were free to cut corners or use vastly different safety equipment. By formalizing vehicle standards, AAA made driving safer. AAA was a nationwide authority on traffic safety statistics and safe driving habits, so the partnership made sense.
Later, the government partnered with AAA again to help draft the Highway Safety Act, a separate act that specified standards for motor vehicle inspection and registration. The Highway Safety Act also formalized regulations for motorcycle safety, driver education, driver licensing, traffic courts, highway design, construction, maintenance, traffic control devices, and more.
AAA and its member organizations influenced other traffic safety regulations throughout the later decades. The NHTSA presented AAA with a public service award in 2000 in recognition of its role in improving driver safety across the United States.
AAA in Recent History
Today, AAA continues to play a leading role in education, insurance, and safety for drivers across the United States.
AAA has 42 individual clubs across the United States and Canada. Because of the consolidation of smaller clubs, the number of clubs has decreased over time. In the 1970s, for example, AAA had dozens of clubs serving specific counties in New York and Pennsylvania. Over time, these member organizations have largely consolidated based on state and other regional affiliations.
The two largest AAA clubs by membership include the Automobile Club of Southern California and the Auto Club Group. Most other AAA clubs have ‘AAA’ in their name, making it easy to differentiate them from other auto insurance and roadside assistance providers in the area.
AAA also has international partnerships with other driving organizations. If you’re a member of other international driving associations, then you may enjoy certain AAA member benefits in the United States.
International AAA partners include ARC Europe, the Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB), and the Canadian Automobile Association of Canada.
Final Word on AAA
Today, AAA is one of America’s best-known driving organizations, offering a range of insurance products, roadside assistance packages, travel benefits, and more. The organization is also actively involved with infrastructure improvement, driver safety projects, and other initiatives across the United States.
Contact your local AAA office to inquire about becoming a member today.
|AAA Contact Information|
|Claim Service Number||800-672-5246|
|Insurance Quote Number||866-568-4222|
|Customer Service Number||800-924-6141|
|Roadside Assistance Number||800-222-4357|