Course helps seniors’ skills at the wheel |

Course helps seniors’ skills at the wheel

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunDon Huber, 77 of Truckee, is a retired bus driver. Huber plans on taking the AARP Safe Driving Course later this month.

Don Huber will admit it ” his driving skills aren’t quite what they used to be.

“From 10 years back, to now, my reaction time has gotten slower,” the 77-year-old said about his adroitness behind the wheel.

That’s why Huber, a retired bus driver and Truckee resident who still remains confident driving his 160,000-mile Toyota van, will be sitting in as a pupil at the AARP Safe Driving Course at the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments on July 16.

“It’s just a refresher course on the things I’ve forgotten from the last course,” Huber said.

This year’s Safe Driving Course will be the fifth for Huber, who eats lunch at the Truckee Tahoe Seniors Council several times a week, and lends a helping hand by driving a dialysis patient to Reno twice a week.

In Huber’s opinion, the $10 sign-up fee is well worth the money.

“I think more of the seniors need to take the course than are taking it,” he said.

Safe Driving Course instructor Jeff Vaillant said so far the class looks to be shaping into a group of about 20. But there’s time for that number to grow.

Al Gammell, 79, said he’s thinking about attending.

“I’ll probably go,” Gammell, a Donner Lake resident and retired chief photographer for Aerojet General in Sacramento, said after eating lunch at the Truckee Senior Center. He drives his 1990 GMC Jimmy to the senior center for the mid-day meal.

Like Huber, Gammell remains confident in his driving ability ” pretty much.

“Hopefully it’s the same,” he said of his dexterity at the wheel.

So why then is Gammell thinking of going?

“Just to pick up on new things,” he said. “They’re constantly changing everything.”

Vaillant said just about everything about driving will be covered in the course.

“Everything from anarchy in parking lots to freeway driving to everything in between,” he said. “It’s a really comprehensive class.”

It’s also far from boring, Vaillant said.

“It’s fun. That sounds corny but it really is,” he said. “It’s really a participatory class.”

And an eight-hour course for $10, especially when most insurance companies offer a discount if it’s taken, Vaillant said, is “a bargain if you think about it.”

But knowledge and safety are most important as drivers age, he added.

“I think (the class) is very important because as we get older, our skills change,” Vaillant said. “My goal when I teach is to make sure everybody goes out of there with at least one piece of knowledge. I try to make them more aware of themselves and driving practices.”

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