December 25

This Day in History

Automotive

Dec 25, 1880:

Layne Hall is born; will become oldest licensed driver in United States

On this day in 1880, Layne Hall is born in Mississippi. Some records indicate that he was actually born in 1884; either way, when he died in November 1990, Hall was the oldest licensed driver in the United States.

In 1916, Hall moved north to Silvercreek, New York, just west of Buffalo. When he arrived, his nephew taught him to drive, and he got his first license that fall. In his nearly 75 years on the road, Hall never got a speeding ticket or citation of any kind. In January 1990, the New York State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles wrote Hall a letter commending him for his lifetime of safe driving.

Hall continued to drive his blue 1962 Cadillac Sedan de Ville sedan--to the grocery store, to the doctor's office, to visit friends and even to go on dates--until he died on November 20, 1990. His accomplishment won him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. (He displaced Mrs. Maude Tull of Inglewood, California., who remained behind the wheel until she was 104. Tull died in 1976.)

Though Hall had an exemplary driving record, many older drivers are not so lucky. In 2004, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 28 million licensed drivers over the age of 65 in the United States, and many of them suffer from what the CDC called "age-related decreases in vision, cognitive functions, and physical impairments" that makes it difficult and even dangerous for them to get behind the wheel. As a result--though the CDC study did note that older people were more likely to wear safety belts and less likely to drink and drive than any other group--older drivers have what the agency called "higher crash death rates per mile driven" than every group except inexperienced teen drivers.

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