Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game, has swept the nation, with millions of people playing the game. New research has shown, however, that the result may also be an increase in distracted driving accidents.
In a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on September 16, data from social media and other sources indicated to researchers that hundreds of auto accidents may have happened as players were drivers, passengers or pedestrians.
The researchers, from San Diego State University, focused on the period from July 10 to July 19, 2016, just after the release of the game. They examined data obtained from social media and news reports, involving drivers and pedestrians distracted by Pokémon Go, as well as accidents that were likely to have been caused by the game.
Twitter reports totaling 350,000 were searched using the terms” Pokémon” and “driving a car.” A random sample of 4,000 tweets generated, referred to a driver playing, a passenger playing or a pedestrian who got involved with traffic while playing.
While many tweets are jokes pertaining to the game, the data still indicated that there were 114,000 actual accidents reported on Twitter in the ten-day period.
During that same July study period, Google News reported 321 stories of crashes caused by Pokémon Go.
The social media posts were divided into percentages. 18% indicated a driver playing Pokémon Go, 11% indicated a playing passenger and four percent showed that a pedestrian was playing and had an accident involving a motor vehicle. According to researchers approximately 54% of social media posts involved hypothetical situations, were vague or unrelated to Pokémon Go.
The researchers also discovered that there were at least 14 actual motor vehicle accidents involving game players during the ten-day study period.
Pokémon Go rewards players for catching and collecting Pokémon placed in real world situations such as parks, intersections, and other public places. There have already been lawsuits filed by property owners against the maker for using private property as Pokémon territory.
Researchers concluded, “Pokémon Go's makers could voluntarily make their game safer. Gameplay is already restricted at speeds exceeding ten miles per hour. Making the game inaccessible for a period after any driving speed has been achieved, may be necessary given our observations that players are driving or riding in cars. At the same time augmented reality games might be disabled near roadways or parking lots to protect pedestrians and drivers alike, given reports of distractions herein.”
At present, Pokémon Go carries several warnings about playing the game while driving and advises the player to be aware of their surrounding when the app is first launched. When the app detects motion greater than ten miles per hour it asks if the player is a driver or a passenger.
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