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Sep 13, 2022

6 min. read

You need vision to achieve greatness. And when it comes to Canadian transportation—and the desire to do good—no one had greater vision than Dr. Perry E. Doolittle.

A progressive approach

No, we’re not talking about the famous fictional character who could talk to animals.

This Dr. Doolittle was born in 1861 in Luton, Ont., and was an innovative physician who would go the extra mile for his patients, becoming one of the first doctors in Toronto to do home visits by car.

He was also a huge fan of all things bicycle and automobile related—so much so that he was the very first person in Canada to own a used car, proving that cars were here to stay.

Above all, Dr. Doolittle believed in progress and that the car could be a great unifier—something that would make connecting Canadians not just possible but easy.

A road safety pioneer

As a founding member and president of the Toronto Automobile Club, and 14-year president of CAA, he became a leading advocate for motorists.

His many impressive feats include championing uniform traffic laws and increasing the speed limit from eight to 10 miles an hour to show that driving was safe and convenient.

For anyone else, that would have been more than enough, but not Dr. Doolittle.

An original Canadian road tripper

In 1925, he arrived on the shores of Halifax with a Ford Model T and one goal in mind: to drive from one end of Canada to the other to promote his grand dream of building a modern cross-country highway.

According to reports, he made his way through Nova Scotia mudbanks, Quebec’s Matapedia Valley, small-town Ontario, the vast prairies, Rocky Mountain canyons and forests of 76-metre-high trees in British Columbia, getting what he called “the best view of Canada.”

He made the coast to coast trip in 40 days—earning himself the nickname “King of the Roads”—finishing just outside Vancouver.

It was a feat not many would have dared to try at the time, but it inspired a shared vision for countless fellow citizens about what the future of this country could look like.

Father of the Trans-Canada Highway

Dr. Doolittle passed away in 1933, well before the Trans-Canada Highway officially opened in 1962, but those who know of his efforts think of him as the route’s founding father.

Today, the Trans-Canada spans 7,821 km and goes through each of the 10 provinces, making it the second-longest national highway in the world, and it does exactly what Dr. Doolittle always hoped: it connects provincial communities no matter where they are.

Read on

To learn more about CAA’s history and its continued mission to improve road safety for all users, click here.

Image credit: Lauren Tamaki

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