Rearview cameras are among safety technologies that benefit all drivers, including an aging population. Photo courtesy of General Motors.

Rearview cameras are among safety technologies that benefit all drivers, including an aging population. Photo courtesy of General Motors.

With more elderly drivers on the road, General Motors says it is using active safety technologies, simple access to OnStar services and more spacious cabins to better service the needs of this growing customer segment.

As a sponsor of the North American Conference on Elderly Mobility, GM this week is highlighting its active safety features that can be helpful to older drivers who can have longer reaction times, limited perceptual abilities and reduced dexterity.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points to several studies that have shown that higher levels of physical, cognitive or visual impairment among older drivers can increase crash risk.

But advanced safety features can help mitigate the effect of these impairments.

Technologies such as Rearview Back-up Camera, Front Park Assist, Rear Park Assist, Side Blind Zone Indicators, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Alert, Front Automatic Braking and Rear Cross Traffic Alert are among the active safety and driver assistance technologies that are particularly helpful to the aging population, GM said.

"The safety of all our customers is our utmost concern,” said Gay Kent, director of GM global vehicle safety and a presenter at the conference. “The great thing about many of our active safety technologies is that some, like the vibrating haptic seat, provide intuitive, non-visual cues to avoid startling the driver and prevent information overload or confusion.”

GM engineers and designers also are addressing passenger spaciousness and comfort. Focus areas include making it easier for passengers to get in and out of the vehicle and increasing passenger foot room.

Sitting in the back rows of a vehicle and swinging a foot through the open door can be a challenge for elderly people whose range of motion can be limited. To make it easier to enter and exit its crossovers and SUVs, GM designers optimized the spacing between the front seat and second and third rows.

“We have hosted many customer clinics to assess customer preference and requirements,” Kent said. “The information we gain through this research drives our teams’ design decisions as we work to incorporate their feedback. We have been able to increase the ease with which our customers enter and exit our seats over the last decade.”

Additionally, GM’s OnStar technology can provide elderly drivers peace of mind, the automaker said. Services such as Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Roadside Assistance, Automatic Crash Response, Emergency Medical Dispatch and Remote Door Unlock -- combined with access to a live advisor at the touch of a button -- can help make elderly drivers feel more confident while on the road.

"Advanced safety technologies, such as those found in GM vehicles, make our roads safer for everyone by sensing potential hazards and warning the driver to take appropriate actions to help prevent a crash from occurring," said Jim Santilli, executive director of the Traffic Improvement Association of Michigan. "With elderly drivers generally experiencing decreased visual performance and reaction time, these advanced safety technologies are especially beneficial to this age group. Vehicles with these technologies will help us with our goal to move closer toward zero deaths."