Pokémon GO has become a new distraction for drivers and pedestrians, says study

Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO is a free-to-play, location-based augmented reality game developed by Niantic. People can play the game on iOS, Android, and Apple watch devices.

In the game, players use GPS to locate, capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon. The game was released in July 2016, and now it has been downloaded 500,000,000+ times worldwide.

Although the game can increase player’s physical activity and be beneficial to their health, it can also lead to accidents and become a public nuisance at some locations.

In a study newly published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers report how Pokémon GO has become a new distraction for drivers and pedestrians.

Researchers from San Diego State University, University of California–San Diego, Johns Hopkins University, University of Southern California, and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety worked together to conduct the study.

They analyzed Twitter postings that had “Pokémon” and “driving”, “drivers”, “drive” or “car” from July 10 to 19 in 2016. About 4000 tweets were found. Each tweet was checked to see whether a driver was playing, a passenger was playing, or a pedestrian interacted with traffic was playing the game.

Researchers also analyzed Google News published from July 10 to 20, 2016, that included topics “Pokémon” and “driving”. About 321 stories were found.

The result showed that 32% of tweets showed a driver, passenger, or pedestrian was distracted by Pokémon GO. This means about 113,993 total incidences reported on Twitter in just 10 days.

In addition, 18% of tweets showed a person was playing and driving, and 11% of tweets showed a passenger was playing the game. About 4% of tweets showed that a pedestrian was distracted by the game.

During 10 days, there were 14 car crashes, including 1 player drove his car into a tree.

Researchers suggest that Pokémon GO has become a new distraction for drivers and pedestrians. Game developers and legislators, and the public should have new strategies to make the game safer. For example, game makers can make the game inaccessible for a period after a specific driving speed has been achieved.

Citation: Ayers JW, et al. (2016). Pokémon GO—A New Distraction for Drivers and Pedestrians. JAMA Internal Medicine, published online. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.6274.
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