Pokemon Go may be hazardous to road safety

Experts fear fervor to outdo game-playing friends could lead to crashes

Published: July 16, 2016, 5:30 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 3:26 PM

Pokemon Go playing at the wheel

As Pokemon Go players in 26 countries rage at the gall of some hackers for taking down their newly-crowned “greatest game ever” servers, officials in the UK are worried about different kind of Pokemon Go crashes — the kinds on the highway.

The new Pokemon Go mobile-app craze has swept the world over the past week, and UK road-safety charity IAM RoadSmart has reminded drivers not to go searching for Squirtle, Jigglypuff or Magikarp while at the wheel of their cars, and especially not on the highways where things happen at a much faster speed, in an attempt to catch more Pokemon faster than their friends.

For those unfamiliar with the game or the old television series, Pokemon are magical creatures that help their owners/trainers defeat opponents in Poke battles. The animated critters are held captive in tiny spheres to be released when the trainers call on them and their powers in battles. Using a smartphone’s camera, the Pokemon Go game transplants the fictional virtual creatures into real-world scenes as people go about their daily lives, and allows them to catch them.

IAM RoadSmart fears that young drivers (especially in that demographics indicate are prime audience for the game, since they grew up with it in their childhoods), could go in search of Pikachu and other virtual critters on the highways and by-ways of the nation.

“Kids and adults alike are going crazy for this game,” said Samson Ruwangu (23), IAM RoadSmart digital content executive. “But the risk is that some people are going to be playing it at the wrong time – and driving a car is the last place you should be looking for Pidgey, Rattata or the others. Pokemon Go makes you concentrate on catching characters and it takes both hand and eye coordination.”

But before Millenials out there start raving about this being another example of old people trying to restrict their fun, it should be noted that research last year in the UK showed that 8% of drivers admitted to driving while using a video-calling application such as FaceTime and Skype, and that rose to 16% among the tech-savvy 18-24 year old demographic that is also prime target for this game.

Other statistics show 9% of driver had taken a selfie while driving (15% for 18-24 year olds, and 19% for those 25-35).

“While looking out for Eevee, Weedle and the rest is great fun, it is important to keep concentration on what matters,” concluded Samson. “Keeping your eyes on the road. Psyduck can wait.”