Danger! Danger! Pokemon Go!
Pokemon Go, a new game released in July 2016 by Niantic Labs, is responsible for a litany of traffic accidents. Here’s a sample of 2016 summer headlines:
Pokemon Go Makes Driving A Lot More Dangerous, July 10, Jalopnik
Playing Pokemon Go Is Becoming Dangerous, July 9, New York Post
Death by Pokemon? Public Safety Fears Mount as ‘Pokemon Go’ Craze Continues, July 14, Fox News
The Worst Real World Dangers of Playing Pokemon Go, July 12, Screen Rant
The Dangers of Pokemon Go Similar to Texting, August 17, Science Daily
Danger! Danger! Danger! The sample above doesn’t even include all the articles on the first page of a Google Search. Clearly, everyone watching is crying DANGER!
What exactly is Pokemon Go? Dave Thier, a contributing editor for Forbes.com, did an excellent job of explaining the game in his article What Is ‘Pokémon GO,’ And Why Is Everybody Talking About It?
In a nutshell, it’s a video game that originally launched as a game on Game Boy and quickly expanded and became an overnight success among gaming fans and collectors alike. The game takes place in a Pokemon world with characters fighting each other and training to do better and better. Pokemon Go is the same kind of world; only players drive around the REAL world trying to locate hard to find pieces and players for the game. That’s where the danger lies.
It is all too tempting for a Pokemon Go zealot to decide to drive an automobile while holding up his iPhone and playing the game. One would think in this current legislative age where states are becoming increasingly restrictive on distracted driving that someone getting in a wreck due to Pokemon Go would be smart enough to omit the game when explaining the wreck. But reports are coming out frequently of honest drivers who say “Yes, I was playing Pokemon Go when I wrecked my car.”
What’s to be done? It’s scary. Nicole Wakelin, in her article POKÉMON GO, YOUR TEEN, AND DISTRACTED DRIVING – DON’T PANIC!, argues that the best thing parents can do is to talk to their kids. And, she points out, the conversation about distracted driving should have been held before a teen driver ever takes the wheel. She makes some sound points. The reality is, every teenager is just a blink of an eye away from being on his own and making his decisions and facing his consequences. At a certain point, nanny software bent at blocking apps like Pokemon Go are really somewhat pointless.
When a teen starts driving a car, they are acting like an adult. They are making adult choices, and they will face adult consequences. My father once told me when I was learning to drive that every time I sat behind the wheel of the car, I was essentially steering a bullet that could take my life or someone else’s. An automobile is a means to freedom and unquestionably useful, but it can also kill. Every single driver needs to be acutely aware of a driver’s responsibility and the possible consequences of making irresponsible choices.
Pokemon Go is just one more temptation. The temptation is probably no greater than that of texting, or changing the radio station or searching for a favorite song on iTunes while driving, or speeding. The reality is when a teen starts to drive a car, there are many conversations to be had. And, if your teen doesn’t seem to comprehend the gravity of the situation, there is no shame in restricting driving to daytime only, or not allowing unsupervised driving. The government has shaped a stepped approach for teens learning to drive, with each state developing its own unique Graduated Licensing Program. But, if you believe your child isn’t ready, or worse, you’ve caught him doing something as irresponsible as playing Pokemon Go while driving, you are fully within your right to create your own Graduated Licensing Program at home. Sometimes, serious consequences are required to make a teen evolve into an adult. It’s better that those consequences are ones dealt at home, than by the Highway Patrol or the legal system.
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