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History Lesson: A Look Back at CAA

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) might not be as old as Canada, but with 100 plus years under its belt it’s certainly getting up there. Take a look back at one of Canada’s oldest member-based organizations.

More than just “the place that tows my car,” CAA has been advocating for Canadians since 1903. From lobbying to have the speed limit increased to 10 mph at the turn of the century, to stiffer fines for distracted driving in more recent years, here’s a timeline of just some of CAA’s work championing the rights of motorists and the travelling public over the years.  

Black and white photograph of old CAA tow truck

1903: Canada’s first association for motorists is created and founding Members take MPPs on a ride to vie for an increase of the urban speed limit from 8 to 10 mph

1906: First legislation dealing with motor vehicles is enacted, and CAA published first Official Road Guide of Canada

1913: CAA establishes Ontario’s first roads signs. Starts a campaign to have motorists travel across Ontario installing wooden road signs. By 1937, more than 200,000 road signs are placed along Ontario highways.

1922: CAA urges the federal government to build a trans-Canada highway

1923: CAA founder, Dr. Perry Doolittle, first president of the Toronto Automobile Club takes first cross-Canada trip by car to build support for a trans-Canada highway

1927: A driver’s license becomes mandatory with CAA as one of the issuers

1929: CAA launches the School Safety Patrol program in which students aged 11 – 14 from all across Ontario volunteer to help keep their peers safe in school zones. This program still exists to this day!

1960: CAA advocates for mandatory seat belts and as part of safety initiatives and supplies Members with belts. CAA asks the provincial government to require that all seat belts meet the safety standards laid out by the Canadian Safety Association.

1963: Ontario bans the sale of belts that don’t meet safety standards. CAA continues to work with automakers to ensure that all seats belts installed in cars are properly tested.

1976: Seat-belts become mandatory as Ontario’s seat-belt law comes into effect

Couple in a car fastening their seat belts

1977: CAA supports the starting of R.I.D.E (Reduced Impaired Driving Etobicoke) program. It was so successful it was expanded province wide and still continues to this day.

2002: The Worst Roads campaign is officially launched!  The campaign continues to engage road users all across Ontario to vote for their worst road in order to raise awareness of the poor states of Ontario’s roads.

2006: Through a Private Member’s Bill, CAA asks the provincial government to ban novice drivers from using cell phones and other portable electronic equipment while driving.

2009: With CAA’s support, distracted driving legislation prohibits the use of handheld devices comes into effect.

2011: CAA woks to include tow trucks in the Slow Down, Move Over legislation as part of the Highway Traffic Act, hoping to improve safety for roadside assistance workers.

2015: CAA successfully achieved legislative changes through Bill 31 on key issues like distracted driving and Slow Down and Move Over for tow truck drivers.

2018: CAA and Ontario’s Provincial Towing Association sign on to an eight-point Towing Bill of Rights in an effort to educate drivers who need roadside assistance on their legally protected rights.

2018: Cannabis is legalized in Canada and CAA launches public awareness campaigns designed to debunk myths and educate all Canadians on the impacts of marijuana usage on driving.

2019: Canadians gain access to standardized air passengers’ rights, which CAA has long supported in its role as an advocate for the travelling public. Canadians become eligible for compensation of up to $2400 for bumped flights and lost or damaged baggage, and more.

2020: CAA Clubs across Canada pivot to offering new services to assist the communities they operate in, during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include delivering groceries and medication to isolated members of the community, offering front-line medical staff a no charge tow within 10km, as well as social calls with CAA Members and non-Members to keep spirits up during social distancing measures.