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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
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.