Published on September 21st, 2016 | by The Kitsap Scene


Washington State Patrol: Playing Pokemon Go and Driving is More Dangerous Than Texting

Despite constant warnings of how dangerous it is to play Pokemon Go while driving, people are still tossing pokeballs behind the wheel.

The Washington State Patrol is one agency urging people to put the game down when they’re behind the wheel, and this week, they cited a new study to bolster their claims. They went so far as to say playing Pokemon Go while driving is more dangerous than texting and driving.

Pokemon Go poses a “significant hazard for younger drivers,” a WSP press release states, citing a report from the Journal of the American Medical Association which tracked 14 Pokemon Go-related crashes over a 10-day period in July.

The researchers correlated drivers’ tweets with crash data found on news reports, the release states. According to the study, 18 percent of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (e.g., “omg I’m catching Pokémon and driving”); 11 percent of tweets indicated a passenger was playing the game while being chauffeured (e.g., “just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon”); and 4 percent indicated a pedestrian was distracted (e.g., “almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon GO”).

WSP troopers have witnesses multiple collisions and instances of dangerous driving as a result of drivers and passengers distracted by the game, the agency’s news release states.

The first Pokemon Go-related collision the agency responded to occurred on July 18; the WSP sent out a press release on the collision at the time. A distracted driver who was reportedly playing the game ran into a stopped car in Fall City, the agency stated. No one was injured.

Additionally, troopers have stopped drivers for being distracted while driving with the application open. Over two days in Wenatchee, a trooper stopped two cars for driving while distracted by the game, the release states.

On July 11, the trooper stopped a young man who appeared to be texting while driving. When questioned the driver reportedly said he was playing Pokemon Go.

The next day, the same trooper made a traffic stop after noticing a vehicle traveling slowly and weaving in and out of lanes and failing to stop at a stop sign. The 17-year-old male driver reportedly had the Pokemon Go app open on his phone.

The game is representative of a broader problem: Distracted driving is becoming more common, WSP says. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission says fatalities caused by distracted driving increased by nearly 31 percent in 2015.

And according to the Washington State Department of Licensing, 24 percent of young drivers involved in Washington’s fatal crashes in 2015 were distracted, up from 18 percent in 2008. Videos taken inside cars driven by teenagers seconds before a crash also reveal some troubling statistics, according to the release.

Out of the 1,700 videos that were taken:

  • 58 percent of teen drivers involved in moderate to severe crashes were distracted
  • 15 percent included passenger distraction
  • 12 percent included cell phone distraction

The Washington State Patrol offers the following safety tips for playing Pokemon Go:

  • Do not trespass! Please don’t be poking out of bushes at WSP facilities or anyone else’s private property…especially at night as it will most likely trigger security or cause police to respond.
  • Please don’t catch and drive, it’s more dangerous than texting while driving.
  • If you’re on your way to a PokéStop, know your surroundings and pay attention to where you’re going and who’s around you.

Featured photo: Pokemon Go Screenshot by Kitsap Scene



About the Author

The Kitsap Scene is an online news magazine covering everything in Kitsap County.

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