pokemon go cautionIf you live in a municipal area of any size—from major urban center to small country town—you’ve probably seen them. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people pacing slowly in all directions, their heads bent over their phones.

At first, the spectacle may have startled or confused you, but by now you probably know exactly what they are doing: playing Pokemon Go.

Ever since its release earlier this summer, this smartphone app-based game has taken the world by storm, mobilizing billions of players all over the world to get outside and see if they can find the digital monsters hiding around their neighborhood.

However, as the game’s popularity has grown, so has its potential to endanger public safety. The mounting number of incidents involving distracted outdoor gamers has engendered a new meme: the Pokemon Go accident.pokemon go hazard

Pokemon Go Car Accidents

While it might sound funny that the Pokemon cartoon is the main factor for causing a spike in newsworthy accidents, many of the accidents are really no laughing matter. Pokemon Go players are getting into outrageously dangerous situations such as walking off the sides of cliffs to being easy prey for getting robbed and beaten, but what is especially concerning is the number of Pokemon Go motor vehicle accidents. Below are some car accidents that made it to the news. Fortunately, there are no fatalities yet associated with Pokemon Go.

One recent Pokemon Go incident involved a 15-year-old girl in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. Directed by the game, the girl crossed a busy highway without looking for cross traffic. She was struck by an oncoming car and suffered injuries to her collarbone and foot, along with several cuts and bruises. Both the girl and her mother afterward told reporters that they blame the game for her injuries.

Another Pokemon Go auto accident took place in the upstate New York community of Auburn. When police arrived at an accident scene where a car had veered off the road and crashed into a tree, the driver admitted that he had been playing Pokemon Go behind the wheel.

A similar Pokemon Go crash in Baltimore, Maryland was even caught on camera in real time. While a few off-duty policemen were standing and chatting together on the street, an SUV veered off the road and violently sideswiped one of their squad cars. With one of the officers’ body-cams still running, the group of policemen ran down the block to where the SUV had come to a stop. The driver got out with his head hanging and his hands held up; in one of them was his smartphone with the Pokemon Go game still in play.

Gotta Catch ’Em All

As the number of Pokemon Go accidents continue to mount, law enforcement officials are discovering a new meaning to the game’s catchphrase “Gotta catch ’em all” as they attempt to educate (or perhaps re-educate) the public on the dangers of distracted driving.

Pokemon Go players would be wise to catch themselves and exercise caution and common sense before endangering their own lives and those of their neighbors merely for the sake of winning points in a mobile video game. The charms of the augmented reality world are not worth risking the true reality of human beings’ health and freedom.

If you, your friends or family are one of the many Pokemon Go enthusiasts who has spent the summer trying to catch ’em all, do yourself and your community a favor by making safety a priority. No amount of points in the game is worth a life-altering injury to yourself or someone else. Moreover, no court is likely to view “Pokemon Go distraction” as a good excuse for breaking the law or causing personal injury to someone else.

Bottom line: use common sense, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t drive while distracted.

Lee Pittman

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Lee Pittman is one of the founding partners of Pittman, Dutton & Hellums, P.C. Learn more about his background and featured practice areas here.

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