Motorists, passengers and pedestrians beware. A new report published online by JAMA Internal Medicine suggests the wildly popular augmented reality game Pokémon GO is distracting.
John W. Ayers, Ph.D., M.A., of San Diego State University, California, and coauthors hunted through social media posts on Twitter and news stories in Google News to report on drivers distracted by the game and crashes potentially caused by players trying to collect Pokémon in real-world locations.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for a primary target audience of the game, those individuals between the ages of 16 and 24. Young drivers are susceptible to distraction, with the American Automobile Association reporting that 59 percent of all crashes by young drives involve distractions within six seconds of an accident.
Study authors collected a random sample of 4,000 tweets containing the terms Pokémon, driving, drives, drive or car for a 10-day period in July, as well as news reports that included the terms Pokémon and driving.
The authors report:
"Pokémon GO is a new distraction for drivers and pedestrians, and safety messages are scarce," the research letter reports.
The authors suggest their findings could help develop strategies for game developers, lawmakers and the public to limit the potential dangers of Pokémon.
"Pokémon GO makers can also voluntarily make their game safer. Game play is already restricted at speeds greater than 10 miles per hour. Making the game inaccessible for a period after any driving speed has been achieved may be necessary given our observations that players are driving or riding in cars. At the same time augmented reality games might be disabled near roadways or parking lots to protect pedestrians and drivers alike, given reports of distractions herein. Games might also include clear warnings about driving and pedestrian safety," the report concludes.
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