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Jan. 24, 2021

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Pokemon Go worse than texting

Police ask players: ‘Please don’t catch and drive’

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Pokemon Go, a new temptation for distractible drivers, has caught the attention of health researchers who claim that at least 11,000 people a day play while they drive or walk in traffic.

The global video game encourages people to collect virtual, animated creatures who wield a distinct power such as fire or water.

“Please don’t catch and drive, it’s more dangerous than texting while driving,” said a statement by Washington State Patrol, which publicized a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers mined social media from a 10-day period in July that included 14 Pokemon-related crashes. They located 345,433 tweets where keywords included Pokemon and words similar to “driving.”

The report said:

• Eighteen percent of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokemon and driving”).

• Eleven percent indicated a passenger was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokemon”).

• Four percent indicated a pedestrian was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokemon Go”).

“Traditional surveillance is needed to clarify our findings,” the report said. “Still, even with a limited scope covering just 10 days there were more than 110,000 discrete instances where drivers or pedestrians were distracted by Pokemon Go and some crashed.”

Washington state troopers said that on July 18, a driver on Highway 202 was playing Pokemon Go, and struck a stopped car carrying a mother and son, who weren’t injured.

The app already is restricted when speeds exceed 10 mph — but the JAMA writers, led by John Ayers of San Diego State University, said it should be disabled even further, since so many people mix gaming and driving.

State troopers blame distracted driving for causing most serious crashes among young drivers. Nationally, after years of improvement, fatal crashes increased 7.2 percent in 2015 when 35,082 people died. One-tenth of those crashes involved distraction.

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