A motoring legend

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THE FIRST Automobile Association patrolmen roved country lanes on bicycles, tipping off drivers about speed traps mounted by police officers in hedges. Members paid two guineas annually for the privilege.

When police began booking patrolmen for obstruction, scouts saluted members, identifiable by the yellow AA badge on their cars. If they failed to salute, that meant an officer up ahead, waiting to enforce the 20mph limit.

The AA was founded in 1905 by 90 enthusiasts meeting at the Old Trocadero restaurant in central London. Their aim was to combat the suspicion and hostility with which motoring was viewed.

The AA erected roadsigns warning of hazards ahead and it also appointed approved agents and repair garages around Britain.

By 1914, the AA had more than 83,000 members, offering them services including roadside emergency telephones and free legal defence.

It also published a Continental Handbook for members, in which it warned: "Some motorists like to carry a revolver for their personal protection."

The RAC, founded in 1897, appealed to upper-crust motorists. The AA exploited the explosion in middle-class driving between the wars. After the Second World War the AA led protests against petrol rationing, finally lifted in 1950. It has campaigned for compulsory seatbelts and lead-free petrol.

The AA now has nearly eight million members, employs 12,000 people and has a nationwide network, handling five million calls annually.

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