‘Pokémon Go’ presents distraction for drivers, pedestrians: study

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San Diego – The free and exceedingly popular mobile app “Pokémon Go” promotes physical activity, but the game also places hundreds of thousands of drivers and pedestrians at risk, according to a study from San Diego State University.

Researchers analyzed more than 345,000 Twitter posts that combined “Pokémon” with words such as “driving,” “drive” or “car” during a 10-day span shortly after the app was released in July. Eighteen percent of tweets came from game players who were driving a vehicle. Another 11 percent were from passengers in vehicles, and the remaining 4 percent were from pedestrians situated near traffic.

Researchers also found news reports of 14 car crashes related to use of the app. After the study was completed, researchers determined that two traffic fatalities could be attributed to the game.

In a Sept. 16 press release, study co-author Eric Leas, a doctoral student in the SDSU/University of California San Diego Joint Doctoral Program, said the study offered “clear justification for a public health response.”

Leas also said findings suggested a possibility of more than 110,000 cases of distracted drivers or pedestrians. “Considering that people had to tweet or be tweeted about to be captured in our study, we are likely underestimating distractions linked to Pokémon Go,” he said in the release.

UCSD professor Linda Hill, part of the research team, said in the release that the app “may be accelerating and amplifying” the dangers of motor vehicle crashes. Fatal crashes already are the leading cause of death among people ages 12 to 24, a key demographic of the game’s target audience.

The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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