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US Research Indicates Thousands are Using Pokemon Go Whilst Driving
Date posted: 18/09/2016
Posted by: Site Administration
This story is from the category Total Immersion
Driving a car taxes the human brain to its limit. Anything else the person does whilst driving takes vital attention off the road and increases the risk of accidents precisely because the driver is no-longer capable of monitoring all the goings-on in front of the car. Likewise a pedestrian crossing the road is at risk of a lethal collision if they don't at least keep an eye on where all the big, heavy, often very fast moving vehicles are, relative to themselves.
Attempting to drive or cross the road whilst texting on mobile phones is bad enough, but according to a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “there were "more than 110,000 discrete instances where drivers or pedestrians were distracted by Pokemon Go", and that was in just a ten day period.
The data was collected by studying ten days' worth of twitter activity, looking for keywords and phrases.
Some examples include:
"OMG I'm catching Pokemon and driving,"
"Just saw a kid get clipped by a car trying to catch a Pokemon,"
"Just had my first experience with a kid walking in front of my car while absorbed in playing Pokemon Go."
Each counts as an instance, and whilst it is possible multiple tweets cover the same incident, the sheer number of them is alarming.
Especially since Pokemon Go is a mirror world application, which projects virtual data on a virtual copy of the physical world, and as such requires much closer monitoring and is potentially much more engaging than a text, and occupies the user's attention for a much greater period of time.
It highlights an ongoing problem where some people with access to some form of virtual or augmented environment on their mobile phone, are incapable of recognising when it is appropriate to use it, and when it is a safety hazard to use it, indicating a need for a 'nanny state' overwatch of sorts, to ensure they keep themselves physically safe whilst interfacing on the go.
As a first step on this road, Niantic, the makers of Pokemon Go, have already added a feature that uses the phone's GPS in a second way – to calculate the speed the user is moving at. If they are moving above a threshold of 30mph, the software concludes they're in a moving vehicle of some sort and pops up a message asking the player to confirm they are a passenger in that vehicle as opposed to the driver.
The twitter messages were sorted into categories to determine relevance.
Of course, nothing stops the driver from stating they're a passenger, but at that point they are essentially committing the equivalent of a criminal offence, and at some point responsibility for this must fall on the end user. It doesn't help those who cross the road in front of vehicles because they're too absorbed on the mirror world's data, but it does serve as a reminder to drivers that it is dangerous to continue using this. It would be relatively easy as well, for the fact that the user confirmed they were not driving a vehicle at the time, regardless of the actual situation, to be retrieved and presented in court should anything happen.
It is a start and a good one, to target those moving at speed whilst so absorbed in the mirror world they aren't paying any attention to the physical one around them, but ultimately more will have to be done, to protect users from themselves whilst they navigate virtual spaces on the go.