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American Automobile Association (AAA)

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Automobile Association (AAA)
Organization

Official Site: AAA.com
Wikipedia: American Automobile Association

Subtopics
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety
American Motorist

Sponsored Events
AAA 400
AAA Insurance 200
AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals
AAA Texas 500
AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals

Page Sections
Founding Officers
Article Index
An organization of American automobile owners, better known by the acronym AAA.  Formed in 1902 by the combination of eight regional automobile clubs (included were:  Automobile Club of America, Automobile Club of Philadelphia, Chicago Automobile Club, Long Island Automobile Club, New Jersey Automobile Club, and Automobile Club of Rhode Island).

The membership magazine of the AAA is American Motorist.

History

The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's American Automobile Association page on 5 January 2016, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The American Automobile Association (the "AAA" or "Triple-A") was founded on March 4, 1902, in Chicago, Illinois when, in response to a lack of roads and highways suitable for automobiles, nine motor clubs with a total of 1,500 members banded together to form the Triple-A. Those individual motor clubs included the Chicago Automobile Club, Automobile Club of America, Automobile Club of New Jersey, and others. The Automobile Club of Buffalo joined in 1903.

In 1904, the AAA merged with the American Motor League, the first American automobile organization.

The first AAA road maps were published in 1905; AAA began printing hotel guides in 1917. Triple-A began its School Safety Patrol Program in 1920, the first of the association's driver safety programs, providing local schools with materials (including badges and ID cards) to train and organize students into a patrol force. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which conducts studies on motorist safety, was established as a separate entity in 1947.

AAA created an organization called the Racing Board, and later known as the Contest Board, in 1902 to officiate the Vanderbilt Cup international automobile race in Long Island, New York. The Racing Board sanctioned the Indianapolis 500 and awarded national racing championships in 1905, 1916, 1920–1941, and 1946–1955. After the 1955 Le Mans disaster, AAA decided that auto racing distracted from its primary goals, and the United States Automobile Club was formed to take over the race sanctioning/officiating. In 2005, AAA re-entered racing as a sponsor of ISC-owned tracks. In 2006, AAA's foray into racing expanded when it made a three-year commitment to sponsor Roush Racing's number 6 car on the NASCAR Nextel Circuit.

In 1935, AAA published Sportsmanlike Driving, the first course outline for high school teachers. In 1936, AAA published the first driver education curriculum for use in high schools (also titled Sportsmanlike Driving, now known as Responsible Driving). AAA has updated its driver training courses throughout the years and many clubs currently offer their own driving schools, or work with other companies to provide AAA’s driving curriculum.

Knowing that vehicles pose a hazard to pedestrians, in 1936 AAA began a pedestrian safety program with a grant from the Automotive Safety Foundation. AAA went on to commission and publish (1938) an extensive study of pedestrian safety for the purpose of reducing pedestrian fatalities and injuries. AAA’s Pedestrian Protection Program began in 1937 and focuses national attention on pedestrian safety needs by recognizing cities, counties and states that have demonstrated successful pedestrian safety programs.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety was established as a separate entity in 1947, and continues to conduct research related to traffic and pedestrian safety.

AAA has also provided services to the U.S. government in times of war. During the 1940s, AAA offered its services to the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense in anticipation of becoming involved in World War II. AAA President Thomas P. Henry was appointed consultant in the transportation unit of the Defense Council, and AAA pledged resources, including highway information, to national defense planning efforts as it had during World War I.

Reductions in manufacturing because of the war increased the need for conservation in automobiles and their related products. AAA's efforts at conservation included supporting the manufacture of synthetic rubber in anticipation of a war-related tire/rubber shortage, urging motorists to reduce their driving speed to conserve fuel (1942); and backing a scrap rubber campaign (1942). In 1944, AAA’s Keep 'em Rolling campaign sponsored a cross-country tour featuring cars equipped with synthetic tires. The tour demonstrated the reliability of tires made with synthetic rubber. In doing its part to assist in the war effort, AAA placed its mapping facilities at the disposal of the Army department; conducted motor pool driver education (1943); secured an order from the War Production Board that stopped the sale of certain anti-freeze solutions harmful to motors (1943); launched a campaign to alleviate a growing shortage of auto mechanics (1943); monitored tire and gasoline rationing (1943); and established, in cooperation with the Red Cross and military hospitals, a driver training program for veterans with artificial limbs (1944). AAA also assisted in the development of a manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and their operation during wartime (1942).

The end of the war brought new needs for motorists and AAA assisted by releasing the film "Traffic Jam Ahead", which outlined a practical program for postwar traffic safety, and publishing Post-war Travel Trends as a public service. In 1946, AAA launched a campaign called "Take It Easy", which was designed to reduce traffic fatalities. Subsequently, fatalities dropped 20 percent below the pre-war figure.

In the 1960s, AAA helped draft the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966, setting safety standards for automobiles, tires, and equipment. AAA also helped draft the Highway Safety Act, specifying standards for motor vehicle inspection and registration, motorcycle safety, driver education, driver licensing, traffic courts, highway design, construction, maintenance, and traffic control devices.

During the oil crisis of the 1970s, the AAA Fuel Gauge Report was created to assist motorists in finding gas stations that had fuel and were open. AAA also began its Gas Watchers program with the endorsement of President Gerald Ford. The Gas Watchers Guide continues to be published to provide simple steps motorists can take to conserve gasoline in their daily driving.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed AAA President James B. Creal to the National Alcohol Fuels Commission. Creal also chaired a task force on gas rationing and was appointed to President Carter’s National Council on Energy Efficiency. AAA representatives serving on President Carter's Alcohol Fuels Commission were requested to sign the Energy Securities Act of 1980. In addition, Creal served on the Industries Advisory Board of Congressional Travel and Tourism Caucus in the early 1980s.

In the 1980s, AAA's mapping services received significant recognition when scenic highways were identified on AAA's sheet maps for the first time. AAA maps were used in the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition where more than 13,000 full-color AAA map images were provided on an optical laser disc for demonstration of an in-car navigation device in the Chrysler Pavilion. And in 1985 the AAA North American Road Atlas was sold at retail for the first time and made the New York Times best-seller paperback list within six weeks. AAA experimented in the 1980s with the On-line Touring Information System (OTIS), which eventually was combined with other automated services under the name AAA Travel Match. The self-service terminal worked like an ATM, with rotating menus and touch-control screens that allowed users to obtain local travel information.

During the mid-1980s, AAA's work with the Coalition to Halt Auto Theft resulted in passage of the Motor Vehicle Theft Law Enforcement Act of 1984.

The AAA School Safety Patrol Program and Lifesaving Medal Award won the Presidential Citation Award for Private Sector Initiatives which honors outstanding volunteer projects in 1985. A year later, on February 4, 1986, President Ronald Reagan honored a recipient of AAA's School Safety Patrol Lifesaving Medal in his State of the Union Address.

In 1988, AAA focused its legislative efforts on the Truck & Bus Safety Regulatory Reform Act requiring interstate drivers and equipment to meet federal safety regulations. The act was signed into law in November 1988.

AAA joined government and private-sector companies—the Federal Highway Administration, Avis, General Motors and the Florida Department of Transportation—in 1990 for the Smart Car experiment, also known as the TravTek Project. This test of a computerized in-car navigation and travel information system demonstrated consumer acceptance of telematics technology that would make driving easier and reduce traffic congestion.

A new driver's education program, "Teaching Teens to Drive", was introduced by AAA in 1996 to focus on parent involvement in teen driving education. A year later, in 1997, AAA launched Licensed to Learn, a campaign to increase awareness of the need for Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) laws in every state. At the outset of the campaign only eight states had enacted GDL laws. Today, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of GDL legislation.

Research in the 1990s led AAA to pursue another issue of importance to US motorists: a transportation crisis resulting from infrastructure that had been under-funded for many years. The Crisis Ahead: America's Aging Highways and Airways research led to AAA helping to shape two pieces of landmark legislation: the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998 and the Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21) in 2000. Both laws embrace the principle that user fees charged to motorists and air travelers should be fully invested in improving and modernizing the nation's surface and air transportation infrastructures.

Because of its work in traffic safety AAA was cited in 1998 as the Clinton Administration's number one traffic safety partner by U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater. And in 2000, NHTSA presented AAA with a public service award in appreciation of AAA's leadership in the Child Passenger Safety Certification Program, which teaches how to properly install infant/child safety seats, and for its continuing efforts in Graduated Driver Licensing.

Skyrocketing gas prices led AAA to testify before three Congressional committees regarding increased gasoline prices in 2000, and to lobby to prevent Congress from repealing parts of the federal gasoline tax, which would have reduced Highway Trust Fund revenue without guaranteeing consumers any relief from high gas prices. Participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation secretary's Aviation Summit, AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet communicated AAA's stand on the aviation crisis saying that consistent underfunding of the nation’s air transportation infrastructure had led to the crisis and offering a four-point plan to help turn it around. Also that year, AAA testified before Congress and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, on proposed hours-of-service regulations for commercial truck drivers and launched Share With Care, a public education campaign on safely sharing the road with trucks.

In the early 2000s (decade), AAA’s focus on helping seniors stay mobile longer and more safely led to an appointment to the White House Conference on Aging. AAA promoted solutions such as senior-friendly road design, screening tools, education for seniors and their families, and supplemental transportation. Reader's Digest highlighted AAA's transportation safety agenda by focusing on the importance of road safety improvements, particularly for seniors. To help seniors become safer drivers or to recognize signs that it’s time to stop driving, AAA developed Roadwise Review, a computer-based screening tool enabling older drivers to identify and address physiological changes that could affect driving.

Discrimination

During the Jim Crow era, AAA actively discriminated against African Americans, who could not join the association. Alternatives to AAA guides such as The Negro Motorist Green Book were written.


Founding Officers

The original 1902 club officers were:

  • President:  Winthrop E. Scarritt, Automobile Club of America
  • First Vice President:  F. C. Donald, Chicago Automobile Club
  • Second Vice President:  W. W. Grant, Long Island Automobile Club
  • Third Vice President:  W. G. Morris, Automobile Club of Philadelphia
  • Treasurer:  Jefferson Seligman, Automobile Club of America
  • Secretary:  S. M. Butter, Automobile Club of America
  • F. G. Wells, Long Island Automobile Club
  • A. E. Pardington, Long Island Automobile Club
  • A. R. Shattuck, Automobile Club of America
  • W. J. Stewart, New Jersey Automobile Club
  • F. C. Lewin, Automobile Club of Philadelphia
  • Dr. Chase, Automobile Club of Rhode Island

    Article Index

    DateArticleAuthor/Source
    5 March 1902NATIONAL AUTOMOBILE CLUB.The New York Times
    6 April 1904OLDFIELD DISQUALIFIEDThe New York Times
    22 April 1907AUTOISTS ANXIOUS FOR CUP RACE NEWSThe New York Times
    1 December 1909JAIL PENALTY FOR RECKLESS DRIVINGThe New York Times
    2 December 1909SPEARE TO LEAD AUTO ASSOCIATIONThe New York Times
    5 December 1909AGAINST RECKLESS DRIVINGThe New York Times
    5 December 1909AUTO ASSOCIATION DID REAL BUSINESSThe New York Times
    11 January 1910SEEN AT THE SHOW: A. A. A. Meetings This Week.The New York Times
    12 April 1914WEEK OF JUNE 27 FOR NATIONAL TOURThe New York Times
    19 November 1922ROAD SIGN NUISANCE.The New York Times
    17 December 1922NATIONAL MOTOR LAW.The New York Times
    24 December 1922FIGHT DANGEROUS ROAD SIGN POSTSWashington Times-Herald
    4 June 1998Transportation Department Teams With AAA To Promote New Teen Driver ProgramU.S. Department of Transportation
    2 March 2000AAA Has Auto Quotes In 5 Minutes Or LessAAA Michigan
    7 March 2000Safety Belt Law May Help Teens, Says AAA MichiganAAA Michigan
    21 March 2007AAA, Parents Best Cars for Families List Named 9 New VehiclesAnthony Fontanelle
    30 September 2009AAA Now Offers Brain Training to Older Drivers - CEO Peter Kissinger Explains WhyAlvaro Fernandez
    2 August 2010DOT, Seventeen Magazine, and AAA Launch National Two-Second Turnoff Day Video ChallengeU.S. Department of Transportation
    November 20, 2010Why Was AAA Founded Back In 1902?Nick Messe
    30 March 2011Who travels the AAA way?Gus Philpott, The Woodstock Advocate


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