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“Pokemon Go” Racking Up Injuries, Car Accidents

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So-called “augmented reality” is a big hit, at least among Pokemon Go players.

Based on the beloved Nintendo series, the Pokemon Go app exploded on the market only a few weeks ago, and already the game is raising about $6 million from players every day. Data shows that over 60 percent of those who have downloaded the app in the U.S. are using it daily, for an average of 43 minutes a day.

App developers and Pokemon Go manufacturers are cheering, but the American Automobile Association (AAA) is concerned. After a number of accidents have been connected to the game, the association is warning drivers: Don’t play behind the wheel.

How Does Pokemon Go Work?

The app is the most popular example so far of technology that mixes in the real world with a game. Already it has nearly as many users as Twitter, and more than SnapChat.

Through your smartphone’s camera feature, you can see what’s around you, while the game superimposes virtual objects—Pokemon creatures—on your screen. The app also uses the GPS feature to detect where you are, and to make the creatures appear around you, tempting you to go “catch” them.

While playing the game, users interact with the world around them, which is why it’s called “augmented reality.” People are loving it, but unfortunately, they’re making some poor choices as a result.

Distracted Players At Risk for Injury

We’ve heard that it’s unwise to text while driving—or even while walking, for that matter. But now the AAA is warning people not to play Pokemon Go, either.

Already there have been reports of vehicle damage, fender benders, and major accidents caused by people driving while distracted on Pokemon Go. On July 8, 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned drivers not to play while driving, Tweeting, “Stay safe on the roads, don’t #PokemonGo and drive. #justdrive”

The number of accidents is steadily rising. FoxNews reported that two men playing the game had to be rescued after falling off a 90-foot ocean bluff in California. US News reported that in New York, a man drove off the road and slammed into a tree. A Pennsylvania girl was hit while a car when she walked onto a busy highway while playing the game. And two Canadian police officers were hurt when two people playing the game backed into their cruiser.

There are other safety issues, as well. According to Vox Media, Missouri police reported a case where four suspected robbers lured in victims with a chance of catching the creatures at their location. Players have run into objects, fallen into holes and over curbs, and even gotten hurt while walking around their homes. People have been caught trespassing while chasing down the critters, and the National Post recently reported on two Canadian teens who mistakenly crossed the border into the U.S. while playing.

How to Stay Safe

The AAA notes that playing the game while driving can be catastrophic. The game pulls the driver’s attention away from the road, and requires them to remove at least one hand from the wheel. “No one wants to admit that the reason they caused a wreck was because they were trying to catch the Snorlax on the side of the road,” they say on the Colorado AAA site.

In addition to keeping the game off while driving, experts recommend the following:

  • Don’t play Pokemon Go while driving.
  • Avoid suspicious locations and be aware of strangers.
  • Don’t trespass while playing.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings when playing in populated areas.
  • Look up—keep an eye on your surroundings to avoid walking into objects.