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Pokémon GO: Location-based app leads to accidents

August 5, 2016  - By
Image: GPS World

We have to stop. It’s a Jigglypuff!

Common sense tells us not to hold a smartphone while driving. But a new game is so addicting, it’s causing people to forget that rule.

Released July 6 for both Android and iOS, Pokémon GO instantly became the top free app and the top grossing app on Apple’s App Store, shattering social media records and shooting Nintendo stock through the roof. And it hasn’t even been introduced in Europe and Asia yet. (Japan, of course, is the birthplace of Pokémon.)

The game uses augmented reality to place the coveted virtual monsters (Pokémon) into real-world locations, so users have to travel to add to their collections.

However, much like in the early days of GPS navigation, when people ended up driving down railroad tracks or into ponds, the Pokémon GO app has led to accidents. Some users are playing the location-based game from inside their vehicles, stopping suddenly, while pedestrians are staring at device screens as they walk through busy cities, sometimes onto private property.

In the first week:

  • A 28-year-old Auburn, New York, driver ran his vehicle off the road and crashed into a tree.
  • A Massachusetts man woke up to a garden full of wandering Pokémon players after his home  — once a church — had been marked as a “gym” (multi-player battleground).
  • A group of Missouri teenagers were arrested for armed robbery after allegedly using the app to anticipate secluded locations for holdups.

Police departments around the country are warning that anyone caught using the app while driving or jaywalking could end up with a hefty fine.

But there’s an upside, too. Gamers are going outside, getting exercise and making new social connections.

And, apparently, helping police. One 19-year-old Wyoming woman, on a quest to catch a Pokémon from a natural water resource, instead discovered a dead body floating in the Big Wind River.

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in Mobile, Opinions

About the Author: Tracy Cozzens

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.