Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Watch out for Pokémon Go players

Over the past week, my social media feed has been flooded with the word “Pokémon.” I found this peculiar because Pokémon is something I associate with the late ’90s when it took the world by storm after being introduced as a video game. We might as well be talking about Pac-Man.

Why is everyone talking about Pokémon again?

Recently, an app called Pokémon Go was released to the digital world. It’s an interactive game where users access their phone’s camera and GPS to catch Pokémon characters that are hidden literally everywhere. Much like a navigation app, Pokémon Go displays a map of where you are. Users have to look for Pokémon characters that are all over the map (literally), get near them, and then catch them.

On the surface, this seems like a harmless and fun app that allows its users to actively engage in a 21st century version of the popular Gameboy game. However, it has turned into a dangerous adventure pursued by people who are walking – and DRIVING – while staring at a screen searching for fictional characters.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, people are injuring themselves while walking and playing. Not only are people just not paying attention to simple “hazards” like fire hydrants, but Pokémon characters are being found in dangerous locations, such as the edge of a subway. Six distracted players were almost struck by a pickup truck during a police chase. Bruises to sprained ankles are punishing irresponsible Pokémon Go users.

If sprained ankles were the worst possible injuries, I wouldn’t be writing about this. Unfortunately, people are taking this game on the road … in their cars … while they are driving.

Although most claims of car crashes as a result of the game are proving to be hoaxes, that has not stopped several law enforcement and transportation agencies from issuing PSAs regarding the dangers of distracted driving.

Too often we see the media quickly claim truckers are responsible for crashes because of fatigue or distracted driving. Although I’m sure there are cases where that is valid, the majority of real road hazards is in the hands of your everyday driver of a passenger vehicle.

Millions of motorists are looking at small screens while behind the wheel. Even apps created to get you somewhere safely, like Waze or Google Maps, are interactive to a lesser extent. Waze users are encouraged to flag police officers, construction, traffic, etc. while enroute to their destination, briefly drawing their attention away from the road ahead to warn others of something on the road behind them.

Add the fact that millions more are now fixated on a game that has essentially turned the landscape into an episode of The Walking Dead: people mindlessly roaming around completely oblivious to their surroundings in search of one thing. In this case, it’s Pokémon characters and not brains. Although I’d argue maybe they should be on a quest for brains.