Automobile-linked crimes have received less attention from criminologists than many other types of offences. However, the automobile plays an important role in the lives of many Canadians, and automobiles are involved in many different types of crimes. As Peter Rothe (2008) has observed, “People use motor vehicles to create death, injury, social suffering, economic hardship, and emotional destruction” (1). Automobile-linked crime ranges from property crimes, such as auto theft and theft from automobiles, to violent crimes, including impaired and distracted driving, dangerous driving, road rage, carjacking, and even using vehicles to attack others. Automobiles are also frequently used to facilitate a broad range of other crimes, including break and enter, robbery, kidnapping, drug smuggling, and sexual offences.
These offences take a great personal and financial toll, and antisocial and criminal driving has a major negative impact on the quality of life of Canadians. In 2010, 2,227 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents and another 11,226 were seriously injured (Transport Canada 2012), and many of these deaths and injuries were due to illegal behaviour. For example, impaired driving is the most frequent source of crime-related deaths in Canada – MADD Canada has estimated at least 1,082 people were killed because of impaired driving in 2010 (MADD Canada 2013). MADD also reports that the annual costs of impaired driving exceed $20 billion. And, while automobile theft has been declining, nearly 80,000 vehicles are still being stolen each year (Perreault 2013). These offences also add a great burden to our justice system – in 2012, there were over 140,000 Criminal Code driving offences, the majority of which involved impaired driving.
Canadian researchers in the area of automobile-linked crime have had a significant impact on our understanding of these offences and have contributed to prevention efforts. For example, research has been instrumental in the campaign to increase the effectiveness of drunk driving legislation; in dramatically reducing auto theft in Manitoba; and is now contributing to the debate about how best to reduce driving under the influence of marijuana and other drugs [End Page 141] (Linden, Mann, Smart, Vingilis, Solomon, Chamberlain, Asbridge, Rehm, Fischer, Stoduto, Wilk, Roerecke, Trayling, and Wiesenthal 2010).
This special issue presents several papers representing some of the research that has been done in the area of automobile-linked crime. The volume begins with a paper by Linda Carroll and Peter Rothe that provides an overview of the many different ways vehicles are involved in violent crimes and proposes a framework that will help to facilitate further analysis of this important issue.
Three of the papers explore different dimensions of impaired driving. Benedikt Fischer et al. discuss the results of a survey examining self-reported cannabis use and driving, and Akwasi Owusu-Bempah examines the research that has been done on the ability of various measuring devices to test for the presence of cannabis. Gina Stoduto et al. report on the impact of a remedial program established by the Ontario government for drivers convicted of drinking and driving.
Two of the papers were part of a multisite study of young offenders involved in auto theft. Pierre Tremblay and Nadège Sauvêtre examine the effects of occupationally embedded criminal markets on patterns of juvenile delinquency by looking at differences between youth who steal cars for profit (jockeys) and those who steal them for excitement and for transportation. Jeff Anderson and Rick Linden use interviews with highly active auto thieves to help understand the patterns and causes of their offences.
The editors would like to thank Peter Frise and the AUTO21 NCE for their help with this special issue and for their continuing support for research on automobile-linked crime. AUTO21 has also encouraged and facilitated the partnerships between researchers and public officials that are necessary if research is to have an impact on public policy.