Pokémon GO—A New Distraction for Drivers and Pedestrians

Ayers, J.W., Leas, E.C., Dredze, M., Allem, J.P., Grabowski, J.G., and Hill, L.
Journal of the American Medical Association Network

This study used an online data collection strategy to examine the effects of playing the popular mobile phone reality game, Pokéman GO, on driver and pedestrian distraction through an analysis of Twitter postings and GoogleNews reports published between July 10th and 20th, 2016. A random sample of 4000 events was selected for this study that resulted in 321 story clusters. In particular, reports of crashes caused by Pokémon GO were identified and duplicate coverage was eliminated. Data were obtained by searching the terms “Pokémon” and “driving,” “drives,” “drive,” or “car.” and were categorized according to three groups, (1) a driver playing the game, (2) a passenger playing the game, and (3) a pedestrian interacting with traffic while playing the game.

A review of the status updates from Twitter revealed that 33% of tweets indicated that a driver, passenger, or pedestrian was distracted by Pokémon GO, 18% of which involved the driver playing the game. Among the news reports that were examined, it was reported that 14 crashes were attributed to Pokémon GO during the ten day period. Based on these results, the authors highlighted the importance of addressing mobile phone reality games before social norms develop which encourage unsafe practices. This can encompass initiatives by legislators and game developers who can include safety warnings within the game.

Ayers, J. W., Leas, E. C., Dredze, M., Allem, J. P., Grabowski, J. G., & Hill, L. (2016). Pokémon GO—a new distraction for drivers and pedestrians. JAMA Internal Medicine, 176(12), 1865-1866.