San Diego State University researchers released a study that suggests the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, may pose a risky distraction to drivers.
Newly released data indicates hundreds of thousands of players are driving while playing the game or distracted by other players.
SDSU researchers analyzed social media and news reports related to the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, to investigate possible driving hazards. The team found 14 car crashes that news reporters connected with Pokemon Go, which included two fatal crashes.
“Considering that people had to tweet or be tweeted about to be captured in our study, we are likely underestimating distractions linked to Pokémon GO,” said Eric Leas, the study’s coauthor and a doctoral student in the SDSU/UCSD Public Health Joint Doctoral Program, in a statement.
“Yet, in just 10 days, our findings suggest there were more than 110,000 cases of potentially distracted drivers or pedestrians, and 14 accidents, giving a clear justification for a public health response.”
The study was led by SDSU's Graduate School of Public Health, assistant research professor John W. Ayers, and University of California, San Diego, professor Linda Hill.
“By relying on big media data we can rapidly discover emerging public health issues by directly observing what the public is thinking and doing in their own words and in near real-time,” Ayers said, in a statement.
According to the medical journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, the social media was analyzed by compiling and reviewing 345,433 twitter posts that combined words like "driving," "drive," or "car" with "Pokemon."
Roughly 33 percent of these tweets came from Pokemon Go players either driving or riding in a car, or from pedestrians distracted by the game, according to the analysis. Out of that percentage, 18 percent suggested the player was driving, 11 percent that a passenger was playing and 4 percent that a pedestrian was playing near traffic.
Researchers say the numbers are alarming when considering the fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people between age 12 and 24, which represents the game's target audience.
The researchers noted that more precautions could be taken such as editing the game design so that Pokemon Go cannot be played at driving speeds, and increasing awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.