AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Celebrates 75 Years of Saving Lives Through Research and Education

Andrew Gross, AAA

It began with a meeting on Nov. 5, 1947. Six AAA board members and staff huddled at Washington, D.C.’s famed Mayflower Hotel to forge something new. One of AAA’s primary missions since its founding in 1902 is keeping roadways safe. The organization launched one of its first traffic safety initiatives in 1922 with the school safety patrol program. This prompted other safety-related programs, including a landmark effort to reverse the soaring pedestrian fatality rate during the 1930s. But there was a sense that more needed to be done.

With the surge in people and cars in the United States during that time, AAA knew it would need to expand its traffic safety efforts. But it couldn’t stretch its annual safety budget further. So, AAA started exploring plans for an independent foundation that could solicit its tax-exempt donations for traffic safety programs. This effort led to the meeting at the Mayflower in 1947 and the creation of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The foundation’s board selected key AAA projects related to safety patrols and driver education in the following months.

The Foundation expanded its work considerably during the 1950s and early 1960s by funding educational films, television shows and research. Since then, it has shaped America’s understanding of traffic safety. For 75 years, the foundation has been faithful to its mission to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by researching the causes and educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they occur.

“AAA established the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 1947 with the primary objective to promote safe mobility,” says Executive Director Dr. David Yang. “The foundation is committed to that important vision by conducting relevant and timely research, sharing key findings with our partners and providing road users with critical facts to combat various traffic safety challenges.”

Drawing on both in-house resources and the work of leading experts in North America, the foundation’s staff work to generate recommendations for preventing crashes, injuries and deaths on our roads. AAA takes the foundation’s research and works with other safety stakeholders to implement the recommendations and garner positive results for the nation’s drivers.

Initially emphasizing projects related to safety patrols and driver education, today, the foundation has expanded its scope of work and has long been recognized as a leader in traffic safety, with a focus on four research priorities: distracted driving, traffic safety culture, teen and older driver studies and drowsy driving. Please visit for more information.