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For as long as there have been vehicles that could potentially break down, there have been organisations that rescue stranded drivers. On today’s busy road network, getting stranded by a breakdown is no fun. In fact it can be dangerous and very expensive. Anyone who drives away from their home area should have breakdown cover and indeed most people who only travel limited distances can benefit too. The Royal Automobile Club (RAC), were one of the first organisations to begin to offer roadside assistance in the UK. Here is how it all started.

In the Beginning

Based on the constitution of the Automobil Club de France, the RAC was started by Charles Harrington Moore and Richard Simms in 1897, to provide assistance and representation to motorists. BY 1901 they started employing uniformed patrols who used motorcycles to patrol Britiain’s fledgeling road network. At that time the organisation was known as the Automobile Club of Great Britian. Its present name came about after receiving the royal seal of approval 1n 1907.

The British Grand Prix and The RAC Rally

Not content with providing assistance to stranded motorists, the RAC started the British Grand Prix and then six years later sponsored its first rally. The RAC has of course become a modern-day sporting institution in its own right. The average speed at the first ever RAC rally was a whopping 25mph, so things have come on a bit since those days. By 1961, the rally which then covered 2000 miles and ended at Brands Hatch began to incorporate forestry stages.

The RAC Today

In 1978, the RAC was incorporated and become a fully fledged business that has evolved into what we know it as today. It is now part of the Carlton Group of companies. The old RAC has many nostalgic memories attached to it some of which are symbolic to the history of motoring. Classic cars with their orginal RAC emblems in place can fetch more money. The old RAC roadside telephone boxes that have been replaced with more modern versions are now collectors items.

Currently and including RAC Europe,, the RAC has approximately 2,000 patrols and responds to 2.8 million breakdowns every year. If you decide to take out roadside assistance you will be joining around 7 million roadside-assistance subscribers. Their breakdown-assistance centres operate on a 24/7 basis, and respond to approximately 4 million calls annually.

In addition to roadside assistance, the RAC also provides routes, road maps and even in-car navigation devices. There is another well-known aspect of their range of services and that is the RAC vehicle check. If you are thinking of buying a vehicle you can have an inspector check the vehicle for road worthiness and structural integrity.

The RAC has come a long way from those early days at the end of the nineteenth century and has been transformed into a modern profit making business. If you need breakdown cover there are many companies that will supply it. But if you prefer to go with one of the oldest established organisations that are still winning awards for the best roadside assistance you might wish to opt for the RAC.

Karen Wilkins, the author of this article is a firm advocate of car breakdown cover, especially for mothers who carry children in the car.