The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 22, 2002


Automobile associations: an AAA alternative

Many people aren't aware that the American Automobile Association (AAA) does more than provide roadside assistance and travel information. It has a powerful political lobbying arm. The Center for a New American Dream's Enough magazine (fall 2002) states, "AAA uses millions of membership dollars to lobby against federal environmental and auto safety laws, as well as public transportation initiatives." According to Harper's Magazine (May 2002), AAA's "political activities are carried out with little or no oversight from members. A frequent target of the group's Washington office has been federal environmental laws. In 1999, AAA opposed new rules that required cleaner-burning exhaust systems for cars, trucks, and SUVs, and two years prior assailed an EPA proposal requiring states to reduce levels of smog and soot. In 1990, AAA even fought the strengthening of the Clean Air Act - a measure supported by three fourths of Americans."

Alternative roadside assistance and travel clubs include Auto Club of America, National Auto Club, Road America, and now The Better World Travelers Club. The Better World Travelers Club (BW) is the only one that announces prominently on their web site their desire to protect the environment. They give one percent of their revenue to environmental organizations to reduce fossil fuel usage and fight global warming. BW also gives members discounts on environmentally sound lodging and on hybrid vehicle rentals to promote ecologically friendly travel. Like AAA, BW provides emergency roadside assistance, trip routing and maps, travel discounts, and insurance to its members nationwide. Although newly formed in the spring of 2002, they have a network of over 50,000 roadside assistance providers. Unlike AAA, however, BW does no political lobbying against the environment.

One drawback is that The Better World Travelers Club doesn't provide travel tour books — members must buy their own travel books at a bookstore. However, the cost for a membership in BW is generally less than AAA, depending on benefit level. To join, or for more information, call 1-866-304-7540 or visit

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito