Scientific analysis of Tweets quantifies Pokémon Go! dangers

pokemon-image

Reports of Pokémon Go! being hazardous for those who don’t pay attention have a definite “duh” factor.

But despite that, some people continue to put their lives and the lives of others in danger at times while playing the mobile virtual reality game. As the old saying goes, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets killed.”

A fascinating report breaking in JAMA Internal Medicine this morning reveals that 18 percent of people tweeting about Pokémon Go! from July 10 to 20 indicated they were playing and driving. Another 11 percent said they were playing the game while riding in a car with someone else behind the wheel (but barking out rapid-fire orders to the driver) and 4 percent indicated they encountered risk of injury simply by playing the game while walking.

Read more: Where to hunt for Pokémon in the Quad-Cities

The public health experts analyzed a random sample of 4,000 Tweets out of a whopping 345,433 Tweets about Pokémon Go! during the 10-day period. That number only includes Pokémon Go! Tweets including “Pokémon” and “driving,” “drives,” “drive” or “car.”

Further analyses categorized phrases such as “omg I’m catching a Pokémon and driving,” “just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon” and “almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon Go!”

“Our findings can help develop strategies for game developers, legislators, and the public to limit the potential dangers of Pokémon Go! and other augmented reality games,” the researchers reported. “For instance, passengers using mobile devices are typically not considered a driving risk, but given its augmented reality feature, gaming passengers may implore drivers to take risks to aid their play.”

Read more: Pokémon Go! maps of the Quad-Cities

Scientists recommend game restrictions

The authors recommend:

Changing the game’s software to restrict play at any driving speed. Currently, the game stops working at speeds over 10 mph.

Disabling the game near roadways in parking lots to protect pedestrians.

The authors admit the game theoretically has a health benefit by getting a younger generation made less active by technology to move again. But they say those benefits are negated by the hazards of the game.

Read more: Where to find rare Pokémon in the Quad-Cities

“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 16- to 24-year-olds, whom the game targets,” they reported. “Moreover, according to the American Automobile Association, 59 percent of all crashes among young drivers involve distractions within six seconds of the accident.”

I wrote a few stories about Pokémon Go! for MapQuest that have been among my best performing MapQuest stories (and I’ve sprinkled them throughout this piece). I have friends who enjoy playing the game safely with their children.

However, none of us can deny the distractions. I have a terrible tendency to want to Facebook while driving. I know it’s dangerous and I try to stop myself.

And as someone who didn’t have a car for two years, I also know all too well about walking and Smart phoning, and have suffered a ton of bumps, bruises and scrapes to prove it.

Be careful out there, and “catch ‘em all!”

Read more: Top 5 Pokémon gyms in the Quad-Cities

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