Drivers Distracted by Pokemon GO App Creating a Risk of Car Accidents in Utah

Since its heavily-publicized debut earlier this month, the Pokémon GO app for iPhone and Android has rocketed – or maybe you should say, Team Rocketed – to the top of the smartphone sphere, becoming an overnight bestseller with more than 15 million downloads.  The app challenges users to track down virtual Pokémon in physical locations around their towns and cities, sending thousands of players on scavenger hunts around Utah.  Unfortunately, the app is having some unintended consequences that, according to Utah law enforcement (and concerned citizens), have the potential to eventually cause a car accident.

Pokemon GO App Causing Distracted Driving, Risk of Serious Injury

It’s an increasingly common sight on highways and neighborhood streets throughout Utah: vehicles slowed to a crawl, inching along the roadside.  The cause?  App users searching for Pokémon while they’re driving – instead of paying attention to the traffic, cyclists, or pedestrians around them.

Ethan Berg, a resident of West Valley City in Salt Lake County, guesses he has spotted at least 30 cars creeping through his neighborhood, occasionally in trains of up to four vehicles at once.  Jason Russell, who lives in the Sugar House section of Salt Lake City, has had a similar experience, one on occasion witnessing two vehicles inching down a freeway’s shoulder at just a few miles per hour.  During his 6 A.M. commute down Foothill Boulevard, Salt Lake City resident Darell Schmick observed cars desperately swerving to avoid a man standing in the middle of the road, completely engrossed by the app.

So far, no car accidents or bicycle accidents caused by distracted driving from Pokémon GO have been reported – but the potential for a serious crash is impossible to ignore, at least for Utah law enforcement (if not the players absorbed in the game).  Taking to Twitter, the Highway Safety Office of the Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been releasing a steady string of tweets urging drivers to remember the dangers of distracted driving, which, according to DPS statistics, caused 11% of all Utah car crashes in 2014.

The tweets, organized under the hashtag #PokemonGO, started rolling out on July 11.  The first says, “Distracted driving is dangerous & deadly.  When you’re driving, focus on driving.”  A chain of tweets and retweets about car (and train) accidents followed:

  • Trooper Ben: “ME: license please, why are you not staying in your driving lane? DRIVER: I saw a Lickitung during #PokemonGO, had 2 get it!  ME: SMH”

  • By Common Consent: “I don’t know why people say driving in Utah is so bad, I just caught five pokémon cruising I-15!”

  • Operation Lifesaver: “Tracks are for trains, not Pokemon. Tell the #PokemonGO players you know to play it safe and stay off the tracks!”

  • Caltrans District 6: “Catching your favorites on #PokemonGO is hard work, but please don’t engage in distracted driving to do so. Snorlax will definitely wait.”

  • Caltrans HQ: “Working to become a #PokemonGO Master? We encourage u to not engage in distracted driving to catch those legendaries”

  • Lloyd Brown: “Heads up to #traffic #safety experts. #PokemonGO latest #DistractedDriving concern…”

  • NOYS: “Heads up, #TrafficSafeYouth! #PokemonGO craze causing real-life injuries & danger”

Utah Highway Patrol to Issue Traffic Tickets to Distracted PokemonGO Players

Fortunately, the injuries NOYS refers to have been – so far – restricted to minor bruises and bumps.  Yet it seems as though it’s only a matter of time before someone gets seriously hurt, especially if the app continues to maintain its massive popularity.  In fact, Pokémon GO is more popular in Utah than just about anywhere else, with Utah ranked second in the country for the highest number of downloads.

At the very least, distracted drivers using the app risk “catching” a costly ticket.

“If people are stopping on the interstate and looking for Pokémon,” said Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce, “we hate to be sticklers on it, but that constitutes a nonemergency stop on the interstate, and we will issue a citation for it.  It’s not a safe place to be looking for Pokémon.”

If you “gotta catch ‘em all,” have a great time playing – just remember to be mindful of your surroundings, for your own safety and that of others around you.

Our Lawyers in Utah Want You to Play PokemonGO Safely

If you were hit by a distracted driver in Utah, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries, including medical bills and lost earnings.  To set up a free legal consultation with an experienced Salt Lake City pedestrian accident lawyer, call the law offices of Overson Law at (801) 895-3143 right away.  Backed by over 33 years of legal experience, Utah personal injury attorney Darwin Overson is here to answer your legal questions and fight for compensation on your behalf.


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