Pokemon Go, the mobile app game, appears to have taken the UK by storm. The game has already been stated as the cause of road accidents because of distracted drivers and pedestrians.
What is Pokemon Go?
The location-based, augmented reality game uses a player’s mobile phone GPS and camera to find and capture virtual creatures, known as Pokemon, which appear on the screen as though they’re in the same world as the player.
Pokemon can literally appear anywhere and players can spend hours ‘Pokemon hunting’. One benefit of the game is the way in which it encourages players to step outside of their door and walk, often for miles, tracking and seeking the often elusive Pokemon characters.
There are dangers all around …..
Pokemon are virtual creatures and whilst they may appear to be in the ‘real world’ when viewed through a mobile screen, they are not, and as such they are not vulnerable to real-life dangers. Players, on the other hand, are.
Pokemon Go and Distracted Pedestrians
The sight of pedestrians walking down the street, head down while texting on a mobile, is nothing new. In 2014 Road Safety GB highlighted pedestrian mobile phone dangers and a year on year trend of increasing pedestrian deaths.
In some US states texting while walking has been banned. However, in Antwerp a more lenient view has been taken with the introduction of dedicated pedestrian ‘text and walk lanes’ designed to prevent pedestrians bumping into others as they walk and text.
Does Pokemon Go pose a real road safety threat?
Pokemon Go players are actively engaged in hunting virtual creatures: the route that the hunt follows will depend entirely on the presence of the Pokemon and, as such, is unknown to the player. You Tube videos abound of Pokemon hunters walking into obstacles and falling into water whilst engrossed in the game.
More seriously, there have already been reports of players running across roads in their attempt to catch Pokemon.
The immersive nature of the game has the potential to create very high levels of distraction: distraction which could very easily lead to an increase in pedestrian accidents.
Safety campaigners are already seeking to educate Pokemon hunters of the dangers with a #LookBeforeYouCatch campaign launched on Twitter.
What about distracted drivers?
The obsession with Pokemon hunting is not limited to pedestrians. There have been alarming reports of drivers playing Pokemon Go whilst at the wheel, and drivers suddenly stopping and exiting their vehicles to ‘chase’ a near-by Pokemon.
The careful, law-abiding, drivers among us will, no doubt, shake our heads in disbelief at such behaviour, but distracted driving through the use of mobile phones is already considered one of the ‘Fatal 5’ factors which lead to road accidents.
What Next? Pokemon Go Liability Enquiries in Road Accident Cases?
The law places a high burden on drivers to keep a careful look out for pedestrians and to avoid any collision. When a collision between a vehicle and pedestrian does occur it is fairly uncommon for the driver to avoid liability.
The actions of the pedestrian are, however, also relevant to issue of liability. It is common for a finding of ‘contributory negligence’ to be made: in other words, if the negligent actions of the pedestrian have contributed to the cause of the accident, the pedestrian will be held partly to blame. This results in any compensation for injury being reduced accordingly.
Failing to see an oncoming car when crossing the road because of Pokemon Go distraction will certainly be a contributing factor.
As the Pokemon phenomenon grows, will we start to see ‘Pokemon Go’ enquiries being raised as part of the road accident liability investigations in cases involving pedestrians?
I ask this somewhat tongue- in-cheek but, given the very real dangers that can arise from playing a virtual reality game, I have to wonder: how long will it be before the words ‘Pokemon Go’ are mentioned in a road accident case report.
For further information about road accidents involving pedestrians see our Pedestrian Accident page.