Author: Jason W. Konvicka, Richmond, VA Product Liability Attorney
The new smartphone gaming app, Pokémon GO, may be to blame for your child’s renewed interest in the outdoors. Although it is an interactive game, players still have to stare at their smartphone screens to play. So, make sure that your children are not too distracted by the game to pay attention to their surroundings.
What is Pokémon GO?
Pokémon GO is an interactive game that encourages players to go outside and collect the game’s fictional animals known as “Pokémon.” To find the Pokémon, the player must look at a real world map. The Pokémon randomly pop up near the player and the player has to catch them. The map also includes “Poke gyms” and “Poke stops” that allow the players to battle each other with their Pokémon and collect items to help them level up in the game. The gyms and stops are located at real life landmarks such as monuments, parks, and even businesses and churches.
The login screen includes a warning to users to be aware of their surroundings and the site warns against playing the game while riding a bike or driving. Unfortunately, not everyone heeds the warning. There have been numerous accounts of people getting injured while playing the game because they were distracted and unaware of their surroundings.
The Risks to Players of Pokémon GO
Playing Pokémon GO is similar in some respects to texting, in that the game requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the player. Like texting, Pokémon GO has distracted players while driving. In Baltimore, a player hit a police car because he was playing Pokémon GO while driving.
Drivers are not the only ones being distracted by the game. It affects pedestrians, as well. One of the goals of the game is to hatch eggs for Pokémon, and this feature often requires walking a certain distance. The National Safety Council (NSC) has recognized that distracted walking leads to a significant number of injuries. Pedestrian deaths have been increasing since 2009. Pedestrian and vehicle accidents are one of the leading causes of death for young children and teens. There have already been multiple accounts of players seriously injuring or endangering themselves while walking to play the game.
What You Can Do
To help ensure the safety of your loved ones who may be playing Pokémon GO, have a conversation with them about distracted walking and distracted driving. Even if you have already had a conversation about texting and driving, remind them that distracted walking can be incredibly dangerous. Another suggestion is to make sure that someone else is driving if your loved ones are playing Pokémon GO in a moving vehicle. You should also advise your loved ones to be aware of their surroundings, to avoid unsafe and unlit areas while playing the game, to be aware of other people around them, and to avoid interactions with strangers. While collecting Pokémon is fun, no Pokémon is worth the risk of injury, or even death.
 Playing Pokémon Go is Becoming Dangerous, New York Post (July 9, 2016), http://nypost.com/2016/07/09/pokemon-go-is-afflicting-players-with-real-world-injuries/.
 Luke Plunkett, Pokémon Go Player Crashes into Cop Car, Captured on Camera, Kotaku (July 19, 2016), http://kotaku.com/pokemon-go-player-hits-cop-car-captured-on-camera-1783942861.
 Take Steps to Avoid Injury or Death While Walking,National Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-pedestrian-safety.aspx?var=homepage6.
 Erin Dooley, Distracted Walking: How ‘Petextrians’ are Endangering Our Streets, ABC News (Aug. 10, 2015), http://abcnews.go.com/US/distracted-walking-petextrians-endangering-streets/story?id=32990067.
 Take Steps to Avoid Injury or Death While Walking, National Safety Council, http://www.nsc.org/learn/safety-knowledge/Pages/news-and-resources-pedestrian-safety.aspx?var=homepage6.
 AJ Willingham, Just a Giant Collection of Pokémon Go Stories, CNN (July 14, 2016), http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/18/health/the-best-and-worst-pokemon-go-stories-trnd/.