A new study indicates Pokémon Go poses a significant hazard for younger drivers. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a national report on Friday which tracked 14 Pokémon Go related crashes over a 10 day period in July of this year. The researchers correlated driver’s tweets with crash data found on news reports. According to the study:
- Eighteen percent of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokémon and driving”)
- 11% indicated a passenger was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon”).
- Four percent indicated a pedestrian was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon GO”).
The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is urging drivers to put the brakes on using Pokémon Go or other apps while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. The WSP has already witnessed collisions and dangerous driving behavior as a result of drivers and passengers distracted by the online game.
On Monday July 18, the Washington State Patrol investigated its’ first collision due to a driver distracted by a Pokémon Go application. The collision occurred on State Route 202 near 332nd Street in Fall City shortly after the popular app was launched. A distracted driver ran into a stopped car carrying a mother and her son. Fortunately, no one was injured.
In addition to the Pokémon Go collision, Troopers have stopped drivers for being distracted while driving with the application open. Over two days in July in the Wenatchee, a Trooper stopped two cars for driving while distracted due to the app.
In the first instance, on July 11, at 6 p.m., the Trooper stopped a young male driver who appeared to be texting while driving. When questioned, the driver said he was playing Pokémon Go.
The next day on July 12, at 1:30 a.m., the same Trooper made a traffic stop along Airport Road after noticing a vehicle traveling very slowly and weaving in and out of lanes and failing to stop at a stop sign on Old Riverside Highway. The 17-year-old male driver had his phone with the Pokémon Go game up.
The phenomenon of driving while distracted is growing. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities caused by distracted driving increased by 30.8% in 2015.
According to the Department of Licensing, 24% of young drivers involved in Washington fatal crashes were distracted in 2015, up from 18% in 2008. Videos taken inside teenage driver’s car seconds before a crash reveal some startling statistics. Out of 1,700 videos taken:
- 58% of teen drivers involved in moderate to severe crashes were distracted
- 15% included passenger distraction
- 12% included cell phone distraction
The WSP urges gamers to consider safety over their high score. Below are safety tips to consider before attempting becoming a Pokémon master:
• Do not trespass! Please don’t be poking out of bushes at WSP facilities or anyone else’s private property…especially at night as it will most likely trigger security or cause police to respond.
• Please don’t catch and drive, it’s more dangerous than texting while driving.
• If you’re on your way to a PokéStop, know your surroundings and pay attention to where you’re going and who’s around you.