AAA Celebrates 100 Years on the Go with Oklahomans
Shifts Gears for New Century of Transportation
October 21, 2020 - 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of the American Automobile Association (AAA) in Oklahoma. “In a year that has brought so much change to American life, AAA has continued to evolve with it, just as it has for the last century,” said Jared Peterson, president, AAA Oklahoma. “Our strength today as a not-for-profit association offering valued services to 423,000 members in Oklahoma can be attributed to visionary and capable leaders who pioneered our club’s presence in this great state.”
Early in the 20th century automobile clubs initially formed in Oklahoma uniting members in Tulsa, Shawnee, Seminole, Bartlesville and Muskogee intrigued by the invention of the horseless carriage. In 1920, the Automobile Club of Oklahoma was approved as an official AAA club, serving the eastern half of the state. In 1927, the Oklahoma Auto Club was organized in Oklahoma City to serve members in the western half of the state. High priorities for club activities included advocacy for improved road conditions and signage for safety. Emergency roadside assistance became a hallmark service to members with unpredictability of vehicle engines and surfaces.
“It was a major event to drive to a destination an hour away,” Peterson said. “In those days, vehicles were fragile and, while better than horseback, they weren’t dependable. It didn’t take long for the value of experienced mechanics who understood the complex machine to be realized. AAA filled that need, and we still do.”
By mid-century, automobiles provided the keys to the continent. Travel services grew in popularity with AAA planning services and discounts to motels, attractions, airline flights and cruises. Insurance provided peace of mind as leisure travel to explore sites seen on TV became routine and work commutes became longer.
The two clubs – representing both east and west sides of the state - merged in 1996, forming AAA Oklahoma. “Cars have become vastly more dependable than they were,” Peterson said. “Now, they are essential to nearly every facet of our lives, and we often take that for granted.”
Americans are holding onto their vehicles longer than ever before, now averaging close to 12 years, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. AAA Oklahoma has responded by adding car care services to its offerings in four new locations opened in the past two years in the metro-area. “Vehicle upkeep becomes critical as they age,” Peterson said. “If you don’t replace the car battery, tires and fluids, you’ll end up on the side of the road needing our help.”
Digital diagnostics now allow AAA roadside rescue technicians to often provide on-the-spot answers to stranded motorists. If the battery has failed – still the most common reason for calls – technicians can replace them right away.
As twenty-first century technology enabled benefits for members beyond traditional state boundaries, AAA Oklahoma merged with 11 other states and the District of Columbia to become part of AAA Club Alliance in 2016. More options and services are available as a result. Travel planning, insurance assessments and roadside assistance are accessible via an app and online resources, if preferred.
Traffic safety awareness and advocacy also remain a major focus. AAA Oklahoma has led the way at the State Capitol to urge passage of seat belt and impaired driving protections; then, teen drivers training and anti-texting and driving laws in later decades. School safety patrols are active in 68 Oklahoma elementary schools and have been many young Oklahomans introduction to leadership and good citizenship.
Even prior to the surge in road trips due to the pandemic, AAA Oklahoma leaders envisioned sponsoring a weeklong road festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of iconic Route 66 in Oklahoma. Set to occur next June, the AAA Route 66 Road Fest event will stretch from Tulsa to Oklahoma City and include communities all along the state’s 420-mile section of historic highway. It will feature immersive historical journeys through the decades, allowing visitors to travel through time from the 1920s to futuristic visions of the Great American Road Trip. Lots of cars, ranging from classic cars, and remote-controlled cars to automated vehicles designed for the future of mobility will be featured. “It seems a fitting beginning to our next 100 years of serving Oklahomans,” said Peterson. “Wherever transportation goes, AAA Oklahoma is ready and along for the ride.” More information on the event is available at Route66RoadFest.com
AAA Oklahoma has 10 retail locations, four car care centers, 52 insurance offices and responds to 245,000 calls from members for roadside assistance annually. Some 227 associates across Oklahoma maintain the association’s standards for safety, expertise and customer service in mobility services to members.