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American Automobile Association

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The AAA (often read triple-A), formerly known as the American Automobile Association, is an American not-for-profit automobile advocacy and service organization. During its 100th Anniversary in 2002, the organization changed its official name to simply the initials.

Contents

History

The American Automobile Association was founded in 1902 in response to a lack of highways suitable for autos and widespread public disapproval of the automobile and its noise. The organization originally had 1000 charter members, and these original members were generally of an auto enthusiast demographic. AAA’s membership was formed from a number of local and regional motor clubs, and these auto clubs combined forces to create a more powerful organization.

In the formative years of the organization, AAA lobbyists descended upon Washington as well as the state capitals to campaign for new roadways and laws favorable to motorists. AAA sponsored legislation in 1903 that led to the creation of the Bureau of Public Roads (now part of the U.S. Department of Transportation), and in 1916, Woodrow Wilson signed AAA-promoted legislation that launched the system of US Highways.

The association expanded its scope of services as years progressed. The first AAA road maps were published in 1905, and AAA began printing hotel guides in 1917. AAA began its School Safety Patrol Program in 1920, and many driver safety programs followed in the decades to come. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which conducts a large volume of studies regarding motorist safety, was established as separate entity in 1947.

AAA was a sanctioning organization for automobile racing in the United States until the mid-1950's. It sanctioned many races, including the Indianapolis 500.

AAA clubs gained many members as national standards for emergency road service were developed, and the availability road service as a member benefit attracted many motorists to join. The association never left its roots, however and continued to support legislation for increased highway funding, lower gasoline taxes, and reduced vehicle regulation. Perhaps the largest AAA lobbying effort came in the mid-1950s when they strongly supported the creation of 41,000-mile Interstate Highway System.

Current operations

The name “AAA” refers to a national consortium of numerous independent automobile clubs. Members belong to an individual club (such as AAA Texas or Auto Club South, for example) and the clubs in turn own AAA. The member clubs have arranged a reciprocal service system so that members of any participating club are able to receive member services from any other affiliate club. Member dues finance all club services as well as the operations of the national organization.

From the standpoint of the consumer, AAA clubs primarily provide emergency road services to members. Clubs also distribute road maps and travel publications. Many offices sell automobile liability insurance and provide travel agency, notary, and messenger services.

AAA still lobbies the American federal government and state governments for increased spending on roads and automobile safety, and against gas taxes and emissions regulations. They use their large membership (25% of US households) to assert that a large percentage of Americans agree with them. Their opponents argue that the AAA does not tell prospective members that it is a lobby group, and that the members join in order to have emergency towing privileges, not because they agree with the political positions of the organization, and that the AAA exploits their members' ignorance.

In Canada AAA is affiliated with CAA — the Canadian Automobile Association. Members of either one generally enjoy the same privileges in both countries.

See also

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