Year
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.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Christ is born?

Although most Christians celebrate December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ, few in the first two Christian centuries claimed any knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born. The oldest existing record of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that ...read more

The Christmas Truce

Just after midnight on Christmas morning, the majority of German troops engaged in World War I cease firing their guns and artillery and commence to sing Christmas carols. At certain points along the eastern and western fronts, the soldiers of Russia, France, and Britain even ...read more

Enemies exchange Christmas greetings

On and around Christmas Day 1914, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding fade in a number of places along the Western Front in favor of holiday celebrations in the trenches and gestures of goodwill between enemies. Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British ...read more

Linebacker II resumes after Christmas pause

After a 36-hour respite for Christmas, the U.S. resumes Operation Linebacker II. The extensive bombing campaign was resumed because, according to U.S. officials, Hanoi sent no word that it would return to the peace talks.On December 13, North Vietnamese negotiators walked out of ...read more

John Wesley Hardin kills over a card game

Angered over a card game dispute, 16-year-old John Wesley Hardin reveals a singular lack of Christmas spirit by shooting James Bradley dead in the street.Although less famous than Billy the Kid, Jesse James, or Wyatt Earp, John Wesley Hardin is believed to hold the gunslinger’s ...read more

To Kill a Mockingbird debuts

On this day in 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird, a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters. The Great Depression-era story of racial injustice and the loss of childhood innocence is told from the perspective of a young ...read more

Christmas party in China turns deadly

A Christmas party at an unlicensed disco is the site of a tragic fire that kills more than 300 people in Luoyang, China, on this day in 2000. It was the deadliest fire in China since a December 1994 fire in a Xinjiang concert hall killed 324 people.In the center of Luoyang, which ...read more

Young JonBenet Ramsey is murdered

Six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey is killed in her Boulder, Colorado, home. John and Patsy Ramsey, her parents, called police at 5:52 the following morning to report that their daughter was missing. Although police found a ransom note demanding $118,000, the money would never be ...read more

Gorbachev resigns as president of the USSR

Mikhail Gorbachev announces that he is resigning as president of the Soviet Union. In truth, there was not much of a Soviet Union from which to resign—just four days earlier, 11 of the former Soviet republics had established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), ...read more

Washington crosses the Delaware

During the American Revolution, Patriot General George Washington crosses the Delaware River with 5,400 troops, hoping to surprise a Hessian force celebrating Christmas at their winter quarters in Trenton, New Jersey. The unconventional attack came after several months of ...read more

British surrender Hong Kong

On this day, the British garrison in Hong Kong surrenders to the Japanese.Hong Kong was a British Crown colony whose population was overwhelmingly ethnic Chinese. It was protected by a garrison force composed of British, Canadian, and Indian soldiers. The British government, ...read more