Will Pokémon Go Lead to More Distracted Driving Accidents?

pokemon and drivingUnless you’ve been camping in the wilderness without internet, you’ve probably heard of the new mobile game Pokémon Go. The game debuted on July 6 and became — quite literally — an overnight success.

Already, millions of people have loaded Pokemon Go on their smartphones. But the addictive game didn’t take long to reveal its dark side.

On Twitter and other social media platforms, multiple users have shared tales of injuries due to playing the game. From sunburned necks to sore muscles and worse, injuries to players absorbed in the game appear to be mounting.

Why Are Pokémon Go Players Getting Hurt?

Pokémon Go — which uses geo-caching to allow players to locate and “catch” Pokemon in real-life places — requires people to get out of their houses and visit different locations. In an effort to rack up points, find items, and discover new pokemon people are rushing from one place to another, either by foot, on bikes or by car.

As a result, players not only have sustained injuries, they’ve also found themselves in serious danger. During the first weekend that Pokemon Go was available to the public, four Missouri teenagers allegedly used the game as bait to commit multiple robberies in St. Charles and St. Louis counties. According to police, the teens likely targeted victims by luring them with a virtual “beacon” placed near a Poke-stop in their area.

The suspects made off with a phone and wallet, police reported. They’re warning young people and their parents to use caution when playing the game.

Pokémon Go is a Distraction Behind the Wheel

The most disturbing trend so far with Pokémon Go is its apparent tendency to encourage distracted driving, and law enforcement organizations around the country are trying to spread the word about the potential danger. By driving, Pokémon Go users can hypothetically catch pokemon and access PokéStops and gyms faster,  thereby increasing how quickly a trainer can improve their  “XP Level” or the number of pokemon in their pokédex. The game’s digital scavenger type design thereby incentives users to move quickly to accumulate points, prestige and experience

On July 12, a 28-year-old driver in New York reported to police that he crashed into a tree while playing the game. He wasn’t seriously injured, but his vehicle’s front end sustained major damage. Other recent reports indicate that slow-moving drivers playing the game have run over curbs and caused minor damage to vehicles.

On Reddit, a user admitted to driving while playing the game and narrowly escaping disaster after a car pulled out in front of her. After the encounter, she encouraged other users avoid this type of  risky driving behavior stating, “I could have died today. For a pidgey. Please, take it from someone who knows. Don’t risk it.

On Twitter, users are posting a constant stream of references to the game in the context of driving, including comments like “#PokemonGO has me driving around my town looking like a crazed driver.” Other tweets have noted new signage referencing the game, such as a sign in Arizona stating, “Pokemon Go is a no-go while driving.”

Tweets from multiple law enforcement agencies across the country also are urging players not to participate in the game while driving. Many of the law enforcement tweets are using the tag #DontCatchAndDrive. Police are encouraging those who insist on immersing themselves in the game to use public transportation and to be careful when crossing streets.

AAA also has issued a warning about the game, noting that some 600,000 U.S. drivers use a phone while behind the wheel and that distracted driving has become a serious problem. Taking a “quick peek” at the Pokemon game is just as bad as texting while driving and could cost someone their life, the organization points out.

Walking While Playing also Risky

Playing the game — and being distracted — while walking also can pose dangers, police say. As one officer said in an interview, “situational awareness” can plummet when a player is engrossed in the app and not paying enough attention to surroundings.

The results can be painful. Multiple users on social media have reported injuries to players who have tripped and fallen while using the app on their cell phones. One player commented that he has caught himself “almost walking into things” and, as a result, has reduced playing time while walking near streets. On Reddit, a user recounted slipping and falling down a ditch — and sustaining a fracture that will take six to eight weeks to heal — within an hour after the game was released. A teenager in Pennsylvania, suffered minor injuries while walking and playing the game,  when she crossed a busy roadway to capture pokemon at a local museum and was struck by a vehicle on her return.

Distracted walking is nothing new. With the advent of smartphones, a growing number of people have ended up in emergency rooms as the result of texting or talking while walking. Between 2004 and 2010, one study found, the number of injuries associated with using a mobile device while walking increased from 559 to more than 1,500.

Still, the success of Pokemon Go could take the dangers of distracted walking to new levels. Within 24 hours of its launch, the game became the most popular in the United States for the year. And within just a few days, Pokemon Go has achieved official recognition as the most popular mobile game in U.S. history.

The Pokémon Go app includes a warning on the loading screen encouraging players to pay attention to the surrounding environment. But will that word of caution be enough to keep players — and others around them — safe as they lose themselves in this popular new game?

Have You Been Injured Due to Someone’s Negligence?

If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by a distracted driver, it’s important to consult with an experienced attorney who can help preserve your rights. By working with a legal team with significant experience in personal injury cases, you increase your chances of receiving compensation for your injuries. To consult with an attorney, please contact Appel Law Firm LLP.

Photo Credit: JohnGibbinsSDUT

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