State Patrol urges caution after U.S. study reveals Pokemon Go-related crash data

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    A bellsprout as seen in Pokemon Go. (Photo by Natalie Covate)
    A bellsprout, as seen in Pokemon Go. (Photo by Natalie Covate)

    A new study indicates Pokemon Go poses a significant hazard for younger drivers, and the Washington State Patrol on Monday urged all drivers to avoid using Pokemon Go or other apps while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

    The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a national report on Friday that tracked 14 Pokemon Go-related crashes over a 10-day period in July 2016. The researchers correlated drivers’ tweets with crash data found on news reports. According to the study:

    · 18 percent of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokemon and driving”)
    · 11 percent indicated a passenger was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokemon”).
    · 4 percent indicated a pedestrian was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokemon GO”).

    The WSP said it has already witnessed collisions and dangerous driving behavior as a result of drivers and passengers distracted by the online game. On Monday July 18, WSP investigated its’ first collision due to a driver distracted by a Pokemon Go application. The collision occurred in Fall City shortly after the popular app was launched. A distracted driver ran into a stopped car carrying a mother and her son. Fortunately, no one was injured.

    In addition to the Pokémon Go collision, troopers have stopped drivers for being distracted while driving with the application open.

    The phenomenon of driving while distracted is growing. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities caused by distracted driving increased by 30.8 percent in 2015.

    According to the Department of Licensing, 24 percent of young drivers involved in Washington fatal crashes were distracted in 2015, up from 18 percent in 2008.

    The WSP provided the following safety tips to consider before attempting to become a Pokemon master:

    • Do not trespass. Don’t be poking out of bushes at WSP facilities or anyone else’s private property…especially at night as it will most likely trigger security or cause police to respond.
    • Don’t catch and drive, it’s more dangerous than texting while driving.
    • If you’re on your way to a PokeStop, know your surroundings and pay attention to where you’re going and who’s around you.

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