The Automobile Association
The Automobile Association (The AA), a British motoring association founded in 1905, was demutualised in 1999 to become a private limited company which currently provides car insurance, driving lessons, breakdown cover, loans and motoring advice, and other services. Following demutualisation the AA Motoring Trust was created in 2002 to continue its public interest and road safety activities. In 2007 the AA merged with Saga Group to form Acromas Holdings.
The Automobile Association was founded in 1905 to help motorists avoid police speed traps, in response to the Motor Car Act 1903 which introduced new penalties for breaking the speed limit, for reckless driving with fines, endorsements and the possibility of jail for speeding and other driving offences. The act also required drivers to hold a driving licence (which was obtained on payment of 5 shillings and did not require a driving test) and to display a registration plate on their vehicle.
By 1906 the AA had erected thousands of roadside danger and warning signs and managed road signage until responsibility was passed to local authorities in the early 1930s. By 1926 the organization had installed 6,500 direction signs and 15,000 village signs, most of which were removed during the Second World War.
In 1908 the organization published its first AA Members' Special Handbook containing a list of nationwide agents and mechanics with a free legal service the following year.
AA patrols on bicycles warned motorists of police speed traps ahead. In 1910 in a legal test case ('Betts -v- Stevens') involving an AA patrolman and a potentially speeding motorist, the Chief Justice, Lord Alverston, ruled that where a patrolman signals to a speeding driver to slow down and thereby avoid a speed-trap, then that person would have committed the offence of 'obstructing an officer in the course of his duty' under the Prevention of Crimes Amendment Act 1885. Subsequently the organisation developed a coded warning system, which was used until the 1960s, whereby a patrolman would always salute the driver of a passing car which showed a visible AA Badge unless there was a speed trap nearby, on the understanding that their officers could not be prosecuted for failing to salute. The AA Handbook included the following message many times: "It cannot be too strongly emphasized that when a patrol fails to salute, the member should stop and ask the reason why, as it is certain that the patrol has something of importance to communicate."
In 1910 the organisation introduced AA Routes and in 1912 began inspecting hotels and restaurants, issuing AA Star Classification to those deemed to be of sufficient quality and introduced pre-purchase and post-accident repair checks in the 1920s.
One reason given for the removal of all UK speed limits by the Road Traffic Act 1930 was that the Automobile Association and also the Royal Automobile Club were frequently successful in defending their members against evidence from the speed traps of the day. A speed limit of 30 mph in urban areas was re-introduced by the Road Traffic Act 1934 and speedometers were made compulsory in 1937.
By 1939 the AA's membership had grown to 725,000, a number equivalent to 35% of all cars in the United Kingdom.
After World War II the organisation 'led the protest' against petrol rationing which was repealed in 1950. The organisation campaigned for the compulsory wearing of seat belts, and for the introduction of lead-free petrol. Seat belt legislation became law in the UK in 1983 as required by the Transport Act 1981. They have lobbied successive governments over what they describe as 'unfair motoring taxes'.
1949 saw the launch of a night-time breakdown and recovery service initially in London only before extending nationally. The AA Insurance brokerage service, started in 1967, is currently the UK's largest motor insurance company.
In February 1972 it relocated from central London offices to Basingstoke. It began broadcasting AA Roadwatch traffic reports on UK commercial radio stations the following year. AA Relay was also introduced in 1973, a service that will deliver a broken-down vehicle, its driver and passengers, luggage and trailer to anywhere in Britain.
In 2002 the AA Motoring Trust was established to carry out the AA's public interest motoring and road safety work following the demutualisation. Its work was taken over by the IAM Motoring Trust on 31 December 2006.
See also 
- AA Ireland
- AA Motoring Trust — The AA's road safety charity
- American Automobile Association
- Canadian Automobile Association
- Dominion Automobile Association
- Campaign for Safe Road Design
- Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile
- Good Garage Scheme
- Green Flag
- Vehicle recovery
- Widmerpool Hall
- "About us". The AA. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
- The Automobile Association Handbook 1926. The Automobile Association. 1926.
- "Village name marker a relic from Devon's motoring past". The is Exeter.
- JA Coutts, 'Obstructing the Police' (1956) 19 MLR 411
- "Road Traffic - 1900- 1929". swarb.co.uk. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
- Massey, Ray (4 February 2010). "Drivers face breakdown nightmare after AA staff ballot for first strike in 105 years". The Daily Mail.
- "History". "we have lobbied successive governments over unfair motoring taxes."
- "Motorweek: The AA are to withdraw from London". Motor: 47. 12 February 1972.
- "A sorry Saga at the AA?". The Guardian. 1 July 2007.
- "The IAM Motoring Trust". Road and road transport history association. Retrieved 29 April 2010. "The IAM Motoring Trust is a new, independent road safety organisation, which forms the research and advocacy arm of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) The Trust is taking forward the work of the AA Motoring Trust, which ceased to operate on 31 December 2006."
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: AA|
- The AA website
- AA Route Planner
- History Of The Automobile Association
- UK Vehicle Recovery History
- Court case in 1910 regarding possible obstruction of a police officer by an AA patrolman
- Saving AA Box 472
- Images Of AA Boxes