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Coloradans and Others Get New Driving — and Walking — Distraction

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pokemon go distracted driving

A Pokémon hovers outside a car’s windshield in a Pokémon Go screen shot.

It seems that more distractions for drivers (and pedestrians) are appearing all the time. A popular new mobile app game called Pokémon Go is putting people at risk of walking and driving accidents, according to recent news reports.

As Hayley Tsukayama reports for The Washington Post, during game play, little Pokémon monsters appear on your smartphone screen, through its camera, as you walk or drive through a real-world area. The object of the augmented-reality game is to capture these creatures in real-world locations by throwing Pokéballs at them, which you acquire at the real-world locations.

Denver PokéStops

Danika Worthington writes for The Denver Post that the game is huge in Denver, where there are several PokéStops clustered downtown. If you are playing the mobile game, you won’t be able to walk down 16th Street Mall without the game vibrating your phone to alert you of the locations, which include the U.S. Mint, The Denver Post, the bust of Robert W. Speer (a Denver mayor in the early 20th Century) on the second floor of the City and County Building, and the Capitol building’s gym.

Pokémon Go Injuries

The game, which reached the top of the charts for free iOS apps, has led to the unexpected side effect of Pokémon-related injuries. The Associated Press has published reports of one 21-year-old man falling off his skateboard, a young woman injuring her ankle after falling into a sidewalk hole, and a woman bruising her shin after tripping over a cinderblock used as a restaurant doorstop.  Tsukayama quotes one game player, a pedestrian, writing in a post on the Pokémon Go subreddit:

Pokemon Go put me in the ER last night. Not even 30 minutes after the release last night, I slipped and fell down a ditch. Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery. I told all the doctors I was walking my dog lol […] Watch where you’re going, folks!

In Colorado Springs, Colleen Sikora writes for KRDO.com that one player, Mike Zichler, said people get lost while looking at their phones while moving around. Player Portia Scovern told her: “You actually walk outside until you find Pokémon on the streets.”

Tsukayama writes that some people have reported about “mishaps” while seeking Pokémon and driving. She implores readers: “[D]o not Pokémon Go and drive.”

On a site called Fark.com, someone using the name UNC_Samurai writes about playing the game while driving on a road trip, including a visit to Colorado:

We’re taking a family road trip from NC to Colorado and Michigan.  So far I’ve captured a Tennessee welcome center and a Shoney’s for Team Yellow.

Stopping in the Road

In an article for Jalopnik, titled “Pokémon Go Makes Driving a Lot More Dangerous,” Alanis King writes that it might be laughable, but the mobile game is giving drivers another way to be distracted:

This game couldn’t possibly have such an influence on how people drive — after all, they should know not to play while driving. But if you haven’t experienced this stuff for yourself, you simply can’t understand.

King relates that one recent night, she and her boyfriend were driving only to have a truck stop in front of them. When they walked over to the truck to see what was the matter, they saw its occupants were “collecting items at a PokéStop — while blocking the road.”

King then reveals that the real reason she and her boyfriend got out of their vehicle was because her boyfriend wanted to go for a walk to “catch” some Pokémon, and stopped at the same “PokéStop.”

She explains that the game is known for getting people to take walks to find its various creatures. But because people are basically lazy they wind up driving at 10 mph or slower, stopping on the road every few yards.

Official Warnings

Washington State’s Department of Transportation tweeted on July 8 asking people not to play Pokémon Go while they are driving, according to CNET. On its Facebook page, Australia’s Northern Territory Police, Fire, and Emergency Services has also warned players to be careful.

The game is apparently so addictive that one man was playing it in his wife’s hospital room as she was getting ready to give birth. A commenter named Fuel_of_Satan writes below the Jalopnik article about the phenomenon of people getting injured while playing the game: “No amount of eyerolling, facepalming or headshaking can cover how I feel about this.”

Image by Ltphotography, under Creative Commons license.

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