Study: Pokemon Go is distracting drivers and causing car accidents

A survey of social media by researchers at San Diego State University found Pokemon Go is causing distracted driving and, in some cases, car accidents. NBC News reports:

John Ayers of San Diego State University and colleagues combed through social media posts on Twitter and looked at news stories for evidence of people having accidents while driving and playing the immensely popular game during a 10-day stretch soon after its release — July 10-19…

The game’s so absorbing that people even take screenshots of themselves playing the game and driving — even as they admit it’s dangerous.

“Being a momentary idiot driving my car and trying to catch this guy,” one user, Georgii Speakman, tweeted, posting a screenshot of an orange Pokémon Go character superimposed on the steering wheel.

The results of this Twitter survey were published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Internal Medicine):

Thirty-three percent (95% CI, 31%-34%) of tweets indicated that a driver, passenger, or pedestrian was distracted by Pokémon GO, suggesting there were 113 993 (95% CI, 107 084-117 447) total incidences reported on Twitter in just 10 days…

Eighteen percent (95% CI, 17%-19%) of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokémon and driving”) and 11% (95% CI, 10%-11%) indicated a passenger was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon”). Four percent (95%, CI, 3%-4%) indicated a pedestrian was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon GO”).

There were 14 unique crashes—1 player drove his car into a tree—attributed to Pokémon GO in news reports during the same period.

Again, we’re talking about just 10 days in July. The authors of the survey recommend tighter controls by the makers of the game. Pokemon Go already includes a reminder which asks players not to play while driving. The report concludes, “It is in the public interest to address augmented reality games before social norms develop that encourage unsafe practices. Now is the time to develop appropriate controls.”

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