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Don't catch 'em all while driving

28.07.2016

Pokémon Go is a global phenomenon, the app has overtaken most mobile-based applications on the market in a matter of weeks.For those of you unfamiliar of what it is I'll sum it up for you in very basic terms, however it is quite complex so I suggest you read-up on it if you want to become more familiarized. The Pokémon Go app is basically an augmented reality game where users, using the GPS and camera in their phone go out and look for Pokémon to catch throughout the country. Once you have captured a Pokémon you can train it, battle with it and of course as the slogan for Pokémon suggests you "Gotta Catch 'Em All."

Despite the fact that it isn't even in South Africa officially yet, we have seen and heard of thousands of local users. Some praise the app for promoting exercise while others say its dangerous and can cause people to lose focus during critical moments. I am sure that both side of the argument agree though that this app should not be used while driving a vehicle. I roped in a local road safety expert to give us his take on the Poké-phenomenon when it comes to driving.

The MD of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says following a number of dangerous incidents in the US, the National Safety Council is calling for players to consider safety over high scores, before a life is lost. “Along with pedestrians distracted by their quest to find rare Pokémons, agencies are also warning about distracted driving resulting from playing the game, where consequences will be even more serious.

 “While the game is intended to be fun, there can be tragic real-world consequences if you’re playing it while driving or while crossing the street. Even though we haven't seen any evidence of this in South Africa yet, it is only a matter of time before a driver is tempted. Don't be tempted, don't POKE and drive,” says Herbert.

 Experts say it takes more concentration than even talking on a phone or sending a text message while driving. In addition to low concentration levels, drivers are reported to be driving recklessly if they suddenly catch sight of a rare Pokémon. Even if passengers spot a Pokémon, rather safely pull over before acting on it. If you cannot safely pull over, better luck next time.

 The danger is not just limited to drivers but pedestrians as well. Soon after the game was launched, a US teen was killed when he stepped onto a highway while playing. As a pedestrian, do not play where reduced concentration levels could endanger you. Conversely, drivers need to be extra vigilant and employ defensive driving to see a problem before it happens.

“We have more than enough evidence to prove distracted driving and walking, are incredibly dangerous. If drivers can miss seeing up to 50% of what is around them while talking on a phone, imagine how little they see while playing Pokémon Go. Don’t become part of statistics which estimate up to 26% of crashes occur while drivers are using their cellphones,” says Herbert.

Do you play Pokémon Go? Share your stories with us.

Article written by Sean Nurse
28.07.2016
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