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Distracted Driving Accidents on Rise Due to Pokémon Go Players

Back in July of this year, a police body cam video went viral, showing three Baltimore MD police officers standing and having a conversation when an SUV suddenly slams into their parked patrol car. Moments later, the driver emerges from the SUV, which came to a halt hundreds of feet down the street, with phone in hand saying "That's what I get for playing this dumb game." It was not the game that was dumb. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Many people thought this video was funny, leading to it going viral. However, there is nothing funny about distracted driving. In fact, of the 421,000 people seriously injured yearly in car accidents involving a distracted driver, 330,000 of those crashes were caused by drivers that were texting. Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game that recently swept the nation, is certain to add to those already shocking statistics.

JAMA Internal Medicine published a recent study on September 16 which referred to data from social media and other sources. The research indicated that hundreds of accidents may have happened as Pokémon Go players were drivers, passengers or pedestrians.

The San Diego University research group focused on the period from July 10 to July 19, 2016 immediately following the release of the game. Data was examined from social media and news reports which involved drivers and pedestrians distracted by Pokémon Go along with accidents that were apparently caused by playing the game.

Using the search terms "Pokémon" and "driving a car," 350,000 reports from Twitter were searched. A sample of 4000 tweets was generated and estimates from this sample were used to create population estimates. 33% referred to a driver, passenger or pedestrian who was involved in an incident. While many of these tweets were jokes, referring to the game, the data still showed that there were 114,000 incidents reported in a ten-day period on twitter. In addition, Google News reported 321 crashes caused by Pokémon within the same frame of ten days.

When divided into percentages the social media posts indicated that 18% involved a driver playing the game, 11% involved a passenger playing the game and 4% involved a pedestrian Pokémon player, getting involved with traffic. Approximately 54% of social media posts involved hypothetical situations or were vague and unrelated to Pokémon Go per researchers.

During that ten-day period, there were at least 14 actual motor vehicle crashes involving game players, the researchers discovered.

Pokémon Go carries several warning messages referring to the playing of the game, advising players not to play while driving and to be aware of their surroundings, when the app is first launched. The app will ask if the player is a driver or a passenger if a speed of over ten mph is detected.

"Pokémon Go's makers could voluntarily make their games safer," researchers concluded. "Game play 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 repots of distractions herein."

While the popularity of Pokémon Go continues among the targeted age group of 16 to 24 years of age, other companies are scrambling to launch the next augmented reality game. Ironically the leading cause of death among that same age group is motor vehicle accidents. Of those deaths 68% are now caused by distracted driving. Immediate measures must be taken to avoid future tragedy caused by merely playing a game.

If you or a loved one has been in an accident caused by distracted driving, contact Vititoe Law Group, personal injury experts, to discuss your situation. Act quickly because there are time limits on pursuing a claim.

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