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Vanessa Beanland
Tel +64 3 479 4150

Dr Vanessa Beanland's broad research areas are applied cognitive psychology and human factors. She uses a combination of research approaches, including laboratory experiments, driving simulator and on-road studies, field observations, incident analyses, surveys interviews and focus groups.

Much of her research focuses on how people detect, process and use information in real-world contexts, with a particular emphasis on transport safety. This includes topics such as how drivers detect potential hazards, or how pedestrians decide whether it is safe to cross an intersection or railway crossing. Her research uses diverse methods, from highly-controlled lab experiments to driving simulators, to field studies and on-road research using instrumented vehicles.

Vanessa currently serves as Director of the Otago Transport Research Network (a University Research Theme) and Chair of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of New Zealand. She served as an Associate Editor for the journal Safety Science from 2017 to 2021.

Vanessa completed a PhD in experimental cognitive psychology at The Australian National University in 2011, and from 2015–2018 she held an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Research Award, examining visual attention in the context of driving. She previously worked at Monash University Accident Research Centre and the University of the Sunshine Coast Centre for Human Factors and Sociotechnical Systems before moving to the University of Otago in June 2018.


Research interests

  • Driver distraction, inattention and fatigue
  • Driver training and driver licensing policy
  • Safety of vulnerable road users (e.g. motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians) and horse riders
  • Usability of human-machine interfaces
  • Visual attention and visual search for information in real-world contexts (e.g. driving)
  • Inattentional blindness and Change blindness


Beanland, V., Ritchie, C., Ousset, C., Galland, B. C., & Schaughency, E. A. (2024). Distracted and unfocused driving in supervised and unsupervised teen drivers: Associations with sleep, inattention, and cognitive disengagement syndrome symptoms. Transportation Research Part F, 100, 169-180. doi: 10.1016/j.trf.2023.11.013

Taylor, R., Campbell, A., Galland, B., & Beanland, V. (2023). From wearables to driving simulators: Research-based sleep tools. Proceedings of the New Zealand Branch of the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) Sleep in Aotearoa Annual Scientific Meeting. Retrieved from

Ousset, C., Schaughency, E., Galland, B., & Beanland, V. (2023). Exploring the role of mediators between sleep and risky/inattentive driving in NZ teens. Proceedings of the New Zealand Branch of the Australasian Sleep Association (ASA) Sleep in Aotearoa Annual Scientific Meeting. A3. Retrieved from

Cook, E., & Beanland, V. (2022, November). Pedalling anger: Validating the cycling anger scale in New Zealand and examining cross-cultural differences. Verbal presentation at the 4th Transport Research Network (TRN) Symposium, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Beanland, V. (2022). Behavioural adaptation or constraint? The effect of curve proximity on driving behaviour. Transportation Research Part F, 86, 384-391. doi: 10.1016/j.trf.2022.03.008

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