The newest app craze sweeping the country is Pokemon Go, a smartphone game created by Niantic and the Pokemon Company and released over the summer. The app uses smart phone cameras and GPS tracking, which when integrated with the app, allows you to see and “capture” the Pokemon characters in “real time” as you walk (or drive) nearly anywhere. While hailed by many as a great way to get children, teenagers and adults alike out of the house and on their feet, the hordes of people walking through city streets, parks, buildings and busy intersections focusing on the screen instead of their surroundings are causing accidents and injuries all over the world.
To date, there are increasing reports of hospitalizations caused by the inattention of people while “catching Pokemon.” People have tripped over things, walked into poles and trees, fallen into holes and ditches (and two men in California off of a cliff), and they have walked directly into traffic – all as a result of this game, which seems to have a “zombie-like” effect on many.
While the concern for self-injury is high, however, this new obsession also poses significant risks to the non-playing public. Since the app works anywhere, there have been reported vehicle collisions caused by drivers suspected of Pokemon chasing while driving. Since the proliferation of the smartphone, texting and emailing while behind the wheel has caused thousands of accidents, many fatal, and this presents yet another challenge to safe drivers on the road, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, Pedicabs and all of the other individuals sharing the crowded city streets. While the clear message is not to drive and play Pokemon, many people who fail to heed the advice can cause serious accidents. Similarly, people walking distractedly into traffic have caused vehicles to collide in avoidance of the unaware pedestrian. Injuries have also been reported as a result of pedestrians walking into other pedestrians, resulting in injuries.