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Case Study 1 - How Has the Motor-Car Changed Crime? Task Glossary

The first car appeared on the road in Britain in 1894; by 1930 there were 1 million cars on the roads; there were 6 million by 1960 and 25 million by the end of the century. In order to deal with this huge new phenomenon a mass of new offences were created: car ownership involved getting licence, tax and insurance; the car had to be roadworthy; the driver had to obey all kinds of new signs and instructions; the car had to be driven carefully, according to strict safety laws and not under the influence of alcohol. Most of these laws were passed in order to try to limit the massive death rate: 6,500 people a year were being killed road accidents in the 1930s (it is now about 4,000 a year). Then there was the effect on other crimes, like robbery, of having a fast getaway vehicle, as well as the theft of cars and joyriding.

By 1939 nearly 60% of all crimes were car crimes of one kind or another and they still make up half the business of the courts.

One unforeseen aspect of car crime was a change in the type of people caught breaking the law. Pre-20th century crime was almost completely working class, but offences like breaking speeding or parking regulations brought middle class people up against the law.

Case Study 1 Sources
Source 1 Source 2 Source 3