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The Automobile Association: The Founders of Roadside Assistance

By Edited Jan 14, 2016 0 0

Most regular drivers will have or have had some form of breakdown cover. The problem has always and will always exist, that anything with moving parts eventually breaks down. The unpredictable part of this is that we can never tell when this is going to happen. A car engine is much like the human body in that it may look healthy on the outside but it is difficult to tell what is going on in the inside. Breaking down at the side of a busy road is not a very pleasant experience. The breakdown assistance available from the motoring associations gives peace of mind should this ever happen, and perhaps the yellow vehicles of the Automobile Association are sonorous with breakdown assistance.

The History of the AA

The AA was formed in 1905 when the Trocadero restaurant in London was the venue where a few motoring enthusiasts met and formed the AA. The initial intention was form an organisation that championed the cause of the motorist. Designated patrol officers worked at weekend on the Brighton to Portsmouth coastal road and were officially tasked with 'indicating dangers on the road and helping motorists who had broken down'. Their unofficial task was considered to be the most important and that was to help motorists avoid speed traps.

The Early Years of Breakdown Assistance

From 100 members in 1905 there were 83,000 by 1914. The rapid growth in members allowed the AA to expand its services and by 1909 there were uniformed officers patrolling on bicycles all over the country and including Scotland and by 1912 there were over 950 of them providing assistance to motorists stranded by a breakdown.

As touring by car became increasingly popular, so did the incidence of them breaking down. During these early years the AA began to appoint a network of agents and repairers throughout the UK as well as the AA handbook that listed them and gave some general advice. By 1908 there were already 1500 listed.

The First Insurance Policy

Having already set up a legal assistance fund, t he AA fist became involved in motoring insurance as early as 1907 when they arranged insurance backed by Lloyds of London. They did not profit from this arrangement and stepped out of motor insurance until 1968.

AA Route Maps

Route maps are another thing that the Automobile Association is synonymous with. What many people do not know is that the concept of the route map that they now download from the AA website was first introduced as long ago as 1912 when the AA started to produce hand written route details. By 1929 239,000 routes were listed.

The Modern AA

The AA has always been prominent in motoring and today they still carry out their early primary functions as roadside patrol officers. In order to survive the AA has needed to adopt business models that create revenue. They are major players in the insurance market and in addition to inspecting and listing garage facilities they also inspect, grade and list hotels, restaurants and other facilities. Perhaps their least visible but most important role is to advise the government on motoring issues and advocate on behalf of the motorist. AA spokespeople are often heard opposing fuel charge and tax rises that affect the motorist.

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