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Pokemon GO game linked to distracted driving car accidents

In the age of Smartphones and touch screen onboard vehicle displays, drivers are paying less attention to the road and staring more at their electronic devices. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than eight deaths and 1,100 injuries occur each day in the United States due to car crashes that involve distracted drivers. Now a popular real-time game played on Smartphones, called Pokémon Go, is putting even more drivers, passengers, and pedestrians at risk.

The Pokémon Go phenomena

Pokémon Go is a free augmented reality game that was released in July 2016. Players participate through their smartphones, which have GPS capability, and attempt to locate, battle and "capture" virtual creatures.

Within two months of release, it was estimated that the game had been downloaded 500 million times and that there are over 20 million active daily users. One serious issue with Pokémon Go play is that it takes place on our city streets, with drivers sometimes paying more attention to the game than to their surroundings.

Pokémon Go distracted driving cases

The Journal of the American Medical Association just completed a study on Pokémon Go and distracted driving. The study examined social media posts from players who claimed to be driving while participating in the game. Researchers found that 18 percent of the posts studied were from drivers who were both driving and playing the game simultaneously. In fact, the game even allows drivers to search for creatures at any speed and to capture them at speeds less than 10 mph.

While the company that created the game says it doesn't condone play while driving, this has become a popular method of play, and it has proven deadly. In the few months since the game has been live, there have been 14 crashes attributed to Pokémon Go in the U.S. and one traffic fatality overseas. While researchers and experts have recommended that these games be disabled for vehicle use by their makers, at this point driver safety remains primarily in the hands of the players.

How to avoid distracted driving

In many states, it is now illegal to even touch a mobile phone while operating a vehicle. This should be a strong deterrent to distracted driving for many vehicle operators. Drivers need to avoid common distractions, which include taking your eyes off of the road, removing your hands from the wheel and taking your mind off of driving.

Whether you are playing Pokémon Go or are just using your phone while driving, you need to be aware of the serious risks you pose to yourself and everyone near you. Everyone needs to take steps to reduce distracted driving. Putting down your cellphone and focusing on the road is a step in the right direction to keep everyone safe.

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