After lying dormant for nearly twenty years, Pokémon are back, and they’re everywhere. With the recent release of Pokémon GO for Android and iPhone, people of all ages have started searching for these video game characters all around them using the app’s augmented reality interface. By going to certain locations marked on their maps and tracking down nearby Pokémon, people are able to locate, capture and train these digital monsters no matter where they go. But like any new technology, Pokémon GO and its augmented reality have introduced a new list of dangers and problems for both the players and the people around it, especially when it comes to driving.
The goal of Pokémon has always been to “catch ‘em all,” and in Pokémon GO players are required to actually move from physical location to physical location in the real world in order to find and capture all 151 Pokémon. By tracking players with GPS and marking where they are on an in game map, the game leads players to various areas where Pokémon may be, allowing them to stock up on needed items at designated locations called Pokéstops, and battle other players at areas that have become Pokémon Gyms. While the game was designed to have players walk around while collecting Pokémon, many players have found it easier to drive from location to location while they search for various characters, leading to a surge in a new form of distracted driving.
With incidents of accidents due to people playing the mobile game while driving cropping up all over the world, it’s important to remember that distracted driving leads to a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without distractions and is the leading killer of teenage drivers in America. Just like texting and driving, playing the app can take your eyes off the road for an excess of 5 seconds at a time, which at 55 miles per hour can allow a car to travel the length of a football field. While many drivers give the game to a passenger to play while in the car, the speed requirements in the game can make even this dangerous, as spawning Pokémon and Pokéstops often require the player to stop or slow down to obtain them before they get out of range.
Distracted driving is no joke, and just like texting, playing Pokémon GO or any other app should wait until after you’re out of the car. While catching all 151 Pokémon may be an admirable goal, the safety of yourself and other drivers should always come first. If you’re looking to be the very best, like no one ever was, be respectful of your fellow Pokémon trainers by keeping your eyes on the road.