As if drivers on the road needed another distraction. With social media, texting and calling, it's hard enough to get drivers to #JustDrive. Motorists are already caught reading books on the road, rear-ending cars while eating sandwiches and now—they're catching Pokémon characters behind the wheel.
Pokémon Go, the latest app from the longstanding franchise, was released July 6 and has since taken the entire country by storm. The mobile app is not just for children—adults who grew up with the characters or developed a newfound interest are obsessed with the augmented reality world. Companies have reminded employees that they are paid to work, not catch Pokémon, and one police station has asked users to stop lurking behind the station after dark to catch characters in a PokéGym.
Yet the hazards go further than low productivity and additional police watch; the fun, seemingly harmless app is a nightmare for driving. Think about it. It's common sense. Using an augmented reality app while driving cannot lead to anything good.
Augmented Reality Is a Nightmare for Roads:
Car crashes involving drivers playing the app have already started, with one Texas motorist illegally parking to jump out at a Pokéstop, and a 28-year-old man crashing his younger brother's car into a tree to catch Lapras. Don't forget about the Reddit posts that start with titles like "What I learned playing Pokemon Go for 4 straight hours while driving through towns" — just plain scary.
New York has now issued warnings for drivers to not use the app on the road, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has reminded passengers to stay behind the yellow line, dare they move to catch a Pokémon and fall into the tracks. Other states have also followed suit with their own reminders, and the Pokémon Go News Twitter has asked users to be safe after receiving tweets from people playing as they drive.
The epidemic is real and it needs to stop now. The roads do not need drivers chasing invented characters in a fake reality when there are real lives and real people at risk. Distracted driving kills over 8 people and injures over 1,160 each day—it's responsible for at least 16% of all reported crashes. Are drivers truly fine with that number rising? Who really thinks catching Squirtle is worth a life?
Please, keep your Pokémon Go to walking adventures. Just don't end up in a ditch, get robbed, find a dead body, walk into walls or cross the road without looking up. Virtual and augmented reality may make for "cool tech" but it will be a challenging barrier in the fight to end distracted driving. Let's start fixing the issue now, before the epidemic gets worse. Put the phone down, check your skills and just drive.
If you really don't want to walk, ridesharing app Fasten is now offering $5 rides for Pokémon Go players in Boston this upcoming weekend. Other players have been cheating the walking game by attaching their phones to drones and to their pets.
Tips for Responsible Pokémon Go-ing:
- WALK. Don't drive, bike, run, skateboard or take part in any other activity.
- LOOK UP to avoid walking into traffic, hitting telephone poles or knocking over small children.
- BE AWARE of your surroundings.
- STOP and take a minute to recognize the present moment. Virtual reality sure is cool, but reality's awesome too. Don't skip watching a gorgeous sunset just to chase a Pikachu down the beach.
Photo Credit: Pokemon Go