Science

‘Gotta catch ’em all’?

By Ashavari Baral

Pokémon Go, the game that focuses around capturing Pokémon – i.e. cartoon creatures that are overlaid onto the players’ surroundings via their smartphone – has become one of the world’s most popular games since its launch in July 2016. The game’s main aim is to engage the players with their surroundings and promote physical activity through catching Pokémon. This is leading to many disturbing side effects, particularly road accidents.

The game has been the cause of over 150,000 traffic accidents, leading to the loss of two lives and not to mention up to $25.5 million worth of destruction. A recent study from researchers at Purdue University documented that there was a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities near locations called PokéStops, where users can play the game while driving. The study was conducted in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. It was found that half the accidents in the county had occurred at Pokéstops, despite developer Niantic doing their best to combat this by making the game unplayable at certain speeds.

Though the county is not accountable for the rest of the United States, as it has a majority student population and therefore more inexperienced drivers, it is safe to say that localities where the game was played showed more unusual road activity with 134 crashes. Similar amounts of damage in counties throughout the U.S. are estimated to lead to $7.3 billion worth of destruction.

The effects have become so serious that the police have found young children trespassing on railway lines and on the road searching for Pokémon. However, the main danger of the game was the increase in distracted drivers as well as pedestrians. Studies through Twitter and other social media platforms estimated that a total of 113,993 incidents had been reported where drivers and pedestrians had been distracted by the game. Local thieves have also taken advantage of these distracted players by targeting them.

Other events include: road accidents, teenagers getting lost in caves, a knife point robbery, multiple shootouts and many more disturbing incidents due to game that people are playing so addictively. Researchers conclude by saying that “on an even sadder note, our analyses indicate that the county would have experienced two fewer traffic fatalities had Pokémon Go not been introduced”. Police in both the US and the UK have advised people not play the game when they are behind the wheel to avoid these accidents to themselves and people around them.

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