Pokémon Go Game Craze Worries Safety Advocates

The new interactive game app, Pokémon Go, has safety advocates concerned that the already serious problem of distracted driving is only going to get worse. Although no serious injuries have been reported due to drivers or motorists playing the game, the craze over the smartphone game app led to a series of accidents and traffic offenses in Japan soon after its release July 6, and is now being blamed for similar problems here in the United States.

From Baltimore to Alabama, drivers who play are crashing into parked patrol cars, trees and causing other accidents because they’re distracted, a problem that continues to concern police, emergency personnel, and those who work with accidents victims.

Rachael Gilmer, a personal injury lawyer with Levin Papantonio, stated: “Use of a smart phone while driving is already the number one cause of distracted driving related car crashes. Adding in a game that mesmerizes some users will only increase the problem. I have seen people playing the game walk into the street without ever looking up, so it’s not just driving while playing that I’m worried about. It is also the people who are stepping off sidewalks or riding their bikes across busy streets without ever taking their eyes off their phone that make me nervous.”

Two gaming companies, Niantic and Nintendo, re-introduced the 1990’s videogame for smartphones as Pokémon Go, a kind of virtual-reality treasure hunt. By using an app tied to downloaded maps that put the little creatures in real-world locations, players track their quarry by crossing streets and walking through neighborhoods to find and capture hundreds of Pokémon at local parks, bars, lakes, malls and other familiar landmarks.

The problems start when drivers take their eyes off the road to play the game or use their smartphone for other purposes, like texting, emailing, or surfing the internet. Last year, there were 45,740 distracted driving related accidents in Florida, resulting in more than 39,000 injuries and 214 deaths.

It’s a problem that prompted the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to launch a campaign called “Focus on Driving, Florida!” Police say texting is one of the most distracted driving behaviors, but other common distractions include talking on a cell phone, tending to kids or passengers in the back seat, watching an event outside of the vehicle, interacting with passengers, eating, grooming, adjusting the radio or climate controls, and daydreaming.

Drivers under the age of thirty accounted for more than 12,000 crashes last year, due to inattentiveness and not being focused on driving. Teenagers were responsible for nearly 12% of those distracted driving crashes.

Gilmer also stated: “Parents should talk with their kids about responsible driving and try to model good driving behavior. As a mother myself, I know it’s not always easy, but with so many distractions inside and outside the vehicle it’s easy to see how one mistake can turn into a tragedy. We don’t want to see that happen.”