Pokémon GO and Distracted Driving

Virtual reality met reality this week and the country did a collective swoon. Even non-Geeks are scrambling all over themselves to download the (free!) Pokémon Go app onto their Androids or iPhones and then venture out into the great wide world under its spell.

And what a spell it is!  The app gives users clarity into the magical Pokémon (short for ‘pocket monster) realm that’s all around us. It also gives people the ability to use their phones to capture these fascinating creatures. Pokémon GO encourages and rewards physical activity, curiosity and exploration through enhanced reality and it appears en route to becoming a Minecraft-level phenomenon. Since its July release, streets, parks, buildings and landmarks from sea to shining sea are littered with humans wandering around, heads down, phones in hand, hunting for the elusive Pokémon.

Think virtual geo-caching with a fully realized mythology that has held the attention of self-identified geeks everywhere since 1996. Is a Squirtle lurking in your neighbor’s backyard and can it be lured to your own living room if you spray that special incense these little monsters can’t get enough of? Will a slippery Pollywog scamper across your keyboard, taunting you to capture him with one of your hard-won Pokeballs, while you’re at the office?

If this is the first time you’re hearing about Pokémon GO and you don’t have access to a teenager who’s willing to explain it to you, a simple Google search will give you all the information you need to get started and join in the collective fun.

But we’re not going to reinvent that particular wheel here.  As personal injury litigation attorneys, we want to offer some warnings about potential unintended safety consequences that Pokémon GO may cause.

Automobile Accidents Caused by Pokémon GO?

Already, the internet is saturated with rumors that people playing Pokémon GO are causing car wrecks and tractor trailer accidents.  As of today, most of these tales are tall ones, but it’s not difficult to imagine that one day soon, we will read a real headline about a vehicle crash that is accurately blamed on the driver playing Pokémon GO while operating his vehicle.

Distracted driving is already a leading cause of auto accidents. Cell phone use while operating a vehicle is a key distraction. According to this US Government site, this country and its territories send almost 170 billion text messages per month and texting while driving, though against the law in many states, is something that 1/3 of us admit to doing and ¾ of us say we have seen others doing. Those are some scary stats. Pokémon Go may make them even scarier.

Smart drivers will instill a zero tolerance policy for themselves when it comes to driving and cell phone use that requires us to take our eyes off the road and use our phones to read, write and flick Pokeballs at tiny monsters. Pokémon Go enthusiasts will understand how tempting it can be to grab your phone while driving and respond to the many different prompts the game gives you as you travel through the world. The overlaid virtual world now constantly at the fingertips of millions of drivers is instantly addictive and makes the routine seem shiny and new.

But driving is not a game. Operating a vehicle requires a person’s full attention to reality. Our personal injury attorneys have seen how even a “minor” car wreck can wreak terrible havoc on a person’s life. We also know there’s not enough insurance money in the world to make anyone whole after a fatal one.

So, by all means, have fun with this very cool game, but when it comes to playing it while driving, please just say Pokémon NO!