Pokemon Go Causes Increase In Auto Incidents

Across the country, there is a new sensation grabbing everyone’s attention.  Known as Pokemon Go, it has revolutionized what many people think of augmented reality and video games.  Introducing millions of people into the Pokemon franchise, the success of Pokemon Go comes from how it used augmented reality to bring a core part of the game to life.  Just like in the show, movies, and comics, you can explore the world around you and find exciting and interesting creatures to call your own. With the entire premise of the game centered around collecting at least one of every kind, the Pokemon Go game has expanded the brand like never before.

While Pokémon Go has a number of benefits associated with it, there are also several problems raised by the game.  In particular, Pokémon Go is the first example of an augmented reality game exploding in popularity. The creators of the game never imagined that millions of people the world over would all be playing it.  The result has been a lot of unintended side effects.

For example, there have been a number of injuries caused by people falling when playing the game.  There have also been examples of things like heat stroke and other weather related injuries hitting players.  Some landlords have had problems with people entering their property to play the game. Along with being illegally on someone else’s land, Pokémon Go increases the liability risk of the owner if a person wandering onto their property becomes injured.  On top of all these risks, there is also the risk of robbery and theft while playing out and about. There are dozens of robberies reported all over the globe. Because cell phones sell for a lot of money, many are stealing them right out of the hands of people playing.  Finally, a big issue with Pokémon Go is drivers. Simply put, some drivers do not have the presence of mind to put down their electronic devices while operating a car. This has led to a number of what is being referred to as ‘poke and drive’ incidents.  

Let’s take a moment to discuss how Pokemon Go’s increase in poke and drive auto incidents is a thing. 

A Life Threatening Thing We Do Every Day

It is easy to forget that there are a lot of risks associated with driving.  When driving, we power a very heavy object around many other heavy objects at fast speeds.  Making even a small error at the wrong time can lead to a person getting into a car accident.  In fact, car accidents occur far more frequently than you might think. Every year, a little more than a million people will lose their lives due to car accidents.  20-50 million people every year will be involved in an accident and may be having issues with chronic pain caused in the accident for the rest of their lives. These statistics are significantly higher for younger people.  Those between the ages of 16 and 17 are twice as likely to die as those between the ages of 18 and 19. From 16-19, you have a group that is twice as likely to get in an accident than those who are over 19. Vehicles can be incredibly dangerous when they are not handled properly.

One of the biggest causes of accidents is a lack of attention.  Very rarely will an accident occur when the driver is fully aware of their surroundings and has their eyes on the road.  Distractions can come from a number of different places and have already been shown to pose a threat to drivers. For examples, states ban texting while driving as well as using the phone while driving because both have been shown to compromise the driver’s ability to stay focused on the road.  There was even a movement when the car radio was introduced to ban it due to people fiddling with the knob getting into car accidents. Pokémon Go revolves around using augmented reality to catch Pokémon. You have to see the world through your phone and that can often create delays and slow down reaction times.  It can also lead to you taking your eyes off the road as you navigate through options while driving. All of this creates many more moments where bad luck and bad timing combine to cause an accident.

Another reason why Pokemon Go increases in poke and drive auto incidents is because of the competitive nature of the game.  Many people collect Pokémon for more than just collecting them all. Some collect the Pokémon in order to do battle against other players.  A big mechanism in the game is the gym system, where players earn currency by defending a location against all those who would try to take it.  Because many people are competitive, the need to defend an existing spot can lead to people no longer paying attention to the road if something on the screen grabs their attention.  

A Funny Saying For A Serious Problem

Poke and drive is a riff on many other popular terms like drinking and driving.  It is meant to draw a comparison between the risks of things we are well aware of, and the risk of a game that has not been studied or reviewed in terms of the potential damage that it can cause.  The truth is that not much is known about Pokemon Go’s increase in poke and drive auto incidents. There are examples of people getting into accidents when playing Pokémon Go. However, there is no clear consensus yet on just how many accidents the game will cause.  A lot of these accidents can be blamed on people not knowing how distracting the game can be. It would stand to reason that simply getting the word out there would help people be more responsible and stop them from playing the game as they commute.  

Unlike drinking and driving, poke and drive is a bit harder to regulate.  How do you ban people from playing when they are driving? People can be pulled over and charged/fined for drinking while driving, for speeding, for texting, for talking on the phone, and more.  How do cops stop a person from being reckless if they themselves cannot see the phone and can’t say for sure if the program is currently running? One option is to ask the game designers to limit use on the roads through some kind of patch.  For example, if there is a way to judge the speed that a person is driving, the game could automatically turn off. However, this would then deny access to the millions of more people who play the game while in the passenger or back seat. Finding a solution to this problem gets to the heart of what many lawmakers have struggled with when it comes to laws around things like games on portable devices.

Where Does This Leave Us?

Simply put, Pokemon Go has only been out for a few weeks now.  Due to the fact that the game is setting a precedent in regards to how we can use augmented reality, there is a lot still untested and unknown about human behavior.  While we have identified many positives and negatives, it is important to realize that in the end, we are talking about real people. Real people have gotten into serious accidents while playing this game.  If there is something that can be done to potentially stop further injury or even death, then it should be considered. For now we sit and wait as additional time allows for more statistics and ideas regarding how to deal with poke and drive. 

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