We now have proof: Pokemon Go can be dangerously distracting
(CNN) — Remember in July when everyone was super obsessed with Pokemon Go and it seemed like nothing, not even general road safety, could stop people from playing?
Yeah, it wasn’t just cute hyperbole. There is actual measurable data now that suggests reckless Pokemon hunting really does distract drivers and pedestrians.
The research, published Friday in JAMA Internal Medicine, analyzed tweets and news items to piece together a picture of Pokemon-related traffic incidents. The results showed that, within a 10-day span, there were 14 crashes reported to involve Pokemon Go.
Even scarier, pedestrians and drivers distracted by the game sent more than 100,000 tweets during that time.
How did they get all of that from some tweets?
The researchers reviewed 4,000 tweets between July 10 and 20 and decided whether the tweets showed driver distraction, pedestrian distraction, or other traffic-related Pokemon topics like safety warnings or even humorous tweets from passengers.
Some of the examples of distraction were:
“My mom just legit stopped the car in the middle of the road to catch a Pokemon…” “Almost got hit by a car playing Pokemon GO.”
Those sorts of tweets were differentiated from more general tweets like “Just passed a sign saying ‘Drive now catch Pokemon later.”
Once these tweets were compiled, researchers scaled up the tweets to population levels, coming to a mind-bending six-figure sum. By their calculations, an estimated 113,993 tweets were sent within the span of 10 days that depicted drivers or pedestrians engrossed in the game.
The crash tally was a little easier to come up with: The researchers searched Google for news of for crashes where Pokemon Go was mentioned, and then filtered out repeat entries. They came up with 14. Again, that’s in a matter of days, not weeks or months.
What’s the upshot?
The Pokemon craze has cooled considerably since July, but the researchers believe their findings can help game developers and the general public approach augmented reality games with an eye toward safety. The paper suggests disabling game play near roadways or when a certain driving speed has been reached. The Pokemon Go app recently introduced a feature that tracks speed, and requires players to acknowledge they are a passenger.
“It is in the public interest to address augmented reality games before social norms develop that encourage unsafe practices,” the paper concludes.”Now is the time to develop appropriate controls.”