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Published On: Fri, Oct 28th, 2016

Pokemon Go Blamed for Alarming Number of Roadway Accidents

Since its emergence on the scene this past summer, millions of players have endeavored to “catch ’em all” while playing the addictive augmented reality game Pokemon Go. While enthusiasts both young and old have enjoyed searching for virtual creatures with their phones while traversing real-life surroundings, serious concerns have emerged about the manifest dangers the activity can pose, as revealed by a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Pokemon Go distraction study

Research lead author Dr. John Ayers of San Diego State University reviewed a randomized sample of news reports and Twitter messages over a period of 10 days, all of which referenced the term “Pokemon” in some manner. From the resulting data, he determined that nearly 114,000 separate events had occurred in which pedestrians and/or drivers had been distracted while playing, often leading to an unintended circumstance of one type or another. One such event involved a man driving his car directly into a tree, with no less than 14 other collisions having occurred during the 10-day window as a result of Pokemon Go distraction.

Pokemon Go accidents linked to spike in road fatalities

photo Scott Davidson

photo Scott Davidson

The boost in traffic accidents attributable to Pokemon Go comes at a time when statistics had already begun to reveal a dramatic rise in the number of road fatalities across the United States. A report released by the National Safety Council demonstrated that between January and June 2016, over 19,000 individuals died in traffic crashes nationwide. This represented an increase of 18 percent as compared to the same time frame in 2014. If that pace were to hold steady for the remainder of the year, the fatality rate would grow to the highest level it has seen since 2007.

Game benefits tempered by dangers

While many observers have hailed the advent of Pokemon Go for its beneficial impact in promoting outdoor physical activity, this praise has been tempered by the clear risks posed by distracted driving and walking resulting from game play. In addition to vehicle operation while the driver is him or herself playing the game, Ayers points to widespread scenarios in which a driver is not actually engaged with the game, but is responding to dangerous commands from passengers who are playing to stop, speed up or make sharp turns. When such conduct occurs in the same physical space that is occupied by pedestrians who are also staring down at their phones, the potential for tragedy is quite real.

Impetus is on Americans to demand behavioral change

President and CEO of the National Safety Council Deborah Hershman urges all Americans to insist upon greater emphasis on safety measures and defensive driving techniques so that fewer fall victim to what are in many cases, preventable accidents and deaths. Greater use of common sense with regards to engaging in distractions such as Pokemon Go while behind the wheel is broadly viewed a simple, common-sense place to start.

Author: Andrea Simon

Pokemon Go  photo/ Stefan Schweihofer via Pixabay

Pokemon Go photo/ Stefan Schweihofer via Pixabaypokemon

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