Despite an August update that added a warning on the dangers of playing the game while behind the wheel, a new study revealed that drivers are included in the more than 11,000 daily incidents of distractions caused by Pokémon GO.
The research, which was published in the JAMA Internal Medicine network, analyzed Twitter posts and news items to paint a picture of traffic incidents related to the massively popular mobile game.
The study acquired almost 350,000 tweets from July 10 to July 19, which contained the search terms "Pokémon" and either "driving," "drives," "drive" or "car." A random sample of 4,000 tweets were generated, and then each tweet was classified either as having the driver playing the game, the passenger playing the game or a pedestrian interacting with traffic while playing the game.
The researchers found that 33 percent of the tweets indicated that there was a distraction for a driver, passenger or pedestrian while playing Pokémon GO, suggesting that there were 113,993 total cases on Twitter over the 10-day period. This is equivalent to over 11,000 cases per day, and that is only the ones that were posted on Twitter.
The driver of a vehicle was indicated to be playing in 18 percent of the tweets, the passenger was indicated to be playing in 11 percent of the tweets and a pedestrian was distracted in 4 percent of the tweets. While drivers and pedestrians are obviously dangers to themselves and to others while they play the game, passengers can also have the same effect as they could order the driver to do unsafe things such as to slow down or stop in a busy street so that they could catch Pokémon.
The study also took a look at reports published on Google News from July 10 to July 20, which contained the terms "Pokémon" and "driving." A total of 321 story clusters were identified, with duplicate stories taken out of the research.
The news items reported 14 unique car crashes — with one player driving his vehicle into a tree — that were attributed to playing Pokémon GO.
According to John Ayers, the author of the study from San Diego University in California, the warning that Pokémon GO developer Niantic Labs added to the game for drivers is not enough to ensure the safety of players. Ayers recommended that drivers and passengers who are going above a certain speed should not be allowed to play the game at all.
"It is in the public interest to address augmented reality games before social norms develop that encourage unsafe practices. Now is the time to develop appropriate controls," Ayers wrote to conclude the study.