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Pokemon GO Distraction Sparks Traffic Safety Concerns

texting-driving-teensSince its launch last July, Pokemon GO has garnered more than 15 million gaming enthusiasts around the world who are tasked with capturing animated creatures that seemingly pop into their real world environs. While some have praised this mobile gaming craze for promoting physical activity, there is a darker side to Pokemon Go, which has been blamed for hundreds of traffic accidents, injuries and even deaths.

According to a recent study, more than 113,000 incidents – which took place over a 10-day span—were caused by motorists and pedestrians who were distracted by the augmented reality game. The study’s lead researcher, Dr. John Ayers, a behavioral scientist at San Diego University in California, says these distracted driving accidents are clearly a “dangerous side effect” of the game.

Pokemon Go – the new distraction among drivers

Ayers and his team of researchers mined data from social media and news reports to achieve an accurate picture of the risks posed by Pokemon Go between July 10 and July 19, 2016. What they discovered was a staggering 350,000 Tweets with the words “Pokemon” and “driving a car.” Of these, the San Diego-based researchers found that 4,000 posts indicated a driver, motor vehicle passenger or pedestrian was playing the smartphone game while on the road. During the 10-day period, at least 14 traffic accidents were attributed to distraction caused by Pokemon Go.

In the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine last month, Ayers notes that the reality game is targeted to 16-24 year-olds, which also happens to be the demographic with the highest rate of fatalities from motor vehicle accidents.

On July 14, 2016, an Auburn man – who later admitted he was playing Pokemon Go at the time of the incident – crashed his vehicle into a tree. He escaped without serious injury, but the incident showed how easily car accidents can happen when your attention is elsewhere.

Liability issues in Pokemon Go-related accidents

Niantic – the maker of Pokemon Go – has a disclaimer (in its terms of use) stating that the company is not liable for any kinds of injuries or property damage incurred while the game is being played. In addition, the smartphone app features several warnings that remind players to stay alert to their surroundings and to steer clear of dangerous areas and/or private property.

Given the surge in traffic accidents and injuries related to Pokemon Go, the question of legal responsibility looms.  In the context of pedestrians or motorists who were struck by drivers whose attentions were focused on the screen as they hunted an imaginary creature, these cases will likely be handled as a distracted driving accident. For example, the victim may be able to sue on the grounds of negligence, since the driver was operating a vehicle in an unsafe manner, just as they would if they had been texting and driving. Civil action may seek damages for property damage, medical bills, lost wages, emotional trauma and other compensation.

The personal injury attorneys at Eisbrouch Marsh offer legal counsel to pedestrians and motorists who were injured in Pokemon accidents. To learn more about your options for financial recovery, we invite you to call for a free case review. We are proud to represent clients throughout NYC as well as Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Middlesex, Morris and Bergen County in New Jersey.

  1. JAMA, Pokémon GO—A New Distraction for Drivers and Pedestrians http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2553331
  2. USA Today, Pokémon Go player crashes his car into a tree http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2016/07/14/pokmon-go-player-crashes-his-car-into-tree/87074762/