Justin Owens

Senior Research Scientist




Dr. Justin Owens, CPACC, is a Senior Research Scientist at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center. Justin specializes in the behavioral aspects of vulnerable road user (VRU) safety, including novice driver, child passenger, pedestrian, and bicyclist safety topics. Over the course of his career, Justin has conducted research addressing a wide range of safety-related problems using an array of research methodologies, including on-road, test-track and naturalistic studies of driver distraction and the safety impacts of electronic systems; development of effective outreach messaging to improve VRU safety and investigating the formative and evaluative aspects of successful outreach campaigns; evaluation of the effects of cognitive distraction, fatigue, and mobile phone use on crash risk using a large-scale naturalistic dataset; investigating the driving performance of novice teen drivers with autism using on-road and simulator methodologies; and evaluating and improving the use of vehicle-related technology by senior drivers.

Prior to joining HSRC in 2023, Justin worked as a Research Scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. He earned his Ph.D. at Brown University in 2008, where his dissertation examined the role of visuospatial attention in the control of anticipatory locomotion using virtual reality. He earned his M.S. in Applied Psychology with a Human Factors concentration from Clemson University in 2003, where his research included studies of pedestrian visibility, and his B.A. in Psychology from Franklin & Marshall College in 2001, where he conducted early research on driver distraction.