The Automobile Association, which is now more commonly known as the AA was formed in London on the 29th June 1905 and believe it or not was a club originally formed to avoid speed traps.Since then like the RAC, the AA has been at the forefront of motoring development. Even as early as 1906 the AA was erecting warning signs for motorists and by 1918 had 83,000 members.
The AA had responsibility for the signs until the 1930's when the authorities took over. In 1910 say the beginning of hand written routes, which have now expanded to today, with hotel reviews, maps and tourist guides and are now the UK's biggest travel publisher.But the main service that everyone in the UK would associate them with is breakdown cover.Whenever you see black and white photo of the AA in most cases represents the patrolman in his van or on his motorcycle, assisting motorists in their time of need. Of course in those days, motor mechanics were deemed as a speciality and was almost compulsory to be a member of a motoring club in case you should breakdown. And of course, with reliability not as it is today, that would surely happen at some point.
Spreads along the UK roads were the AA emergency telephones and telephone boxes that looked like old police telephone boxes. If you were to breakdown you would walk to the nearest box, use your special AA key to enter the box then speak to an operator to get you a patrolman as soon as possible.Of course mobile phones have removed the need for most of these telephones now which now only tend to be shared phones an the motorways only.
By the second world way over 2 million cars were now on the road and nearly 3/5 of a million of these owners had joined the AA.Always campaigning for the good and safety of the motorist they helped pave the way for the compulsory wearing of seatbelts and the introduction of lead free petrol which we take for granted in the 21st century.The 1970s saw the introduction of the AA's roadwatch, which was originally used over the radio and now also features heavily on the Internet.
By the 1990's the membership had reached 8 million members, and today is the UK's biggest breakdown cover provider with over 3,000 patrolmen.Little did they know back in 1905 how much the motorcar would change how we live and the freedom it would give.It is true that the motoring organisations today including the AA are more insurance orientated and or course need to keep the shareholders happy as well as the motorists. But it is also true to say that they have been more successful than the rest and have kept some members, all their motoring life.
Satellite navigation and computerised diagnostics rule the modern breakdown cover service, but it is we, the consumer who have driven this. If we want to go back to the good old days, then we need to throw away the mobile phone, and trade in the BMW for a Morris Minor.Over 100 years have gone and good luck to another 100 years..Mark is webmaster for AA Breakdown Cover and Race Track Experience and Dialaphone.
By: Mark Flanighan