The game that was once thought to be past its time has now made a miraculous come back and has not only taken over the United States, but the world as well. Pokémon, once played on cards or as a video game on Gameboys, has now been converted into a phone app called Pokémon GO. But the phone app varies from its video game counterpart. Instead of being able to play the game while sitting in the comfort of one’s home, the phone app requires you to explore the real world in search of Pokémon. In the app, the game uses your phone’s GPS to know your exact location and then creates a virtual map (as seen above) which mimics the same streets and building you would find in the real world. On this map, it indicates where Pokémon may be. When you find a Pokémon, whether in a city street, rural field, or mountain top, the game accesses your camera and, voilà, a Pokémon appears surrounded by the real world environment. The player then throws a pokeball at the creature and catches it. The more Pokémon you catch, the higher level you receive in the game.
Experts believe this app is the closest we’ve seen a game come to achieving virtual reality because of its unique ability to blend the real world with the game’s virtual world. Although the game was only released on July 6, 2016, it has exploded in popularity.
However there are dangers. In just a short amount of time, four teens used the game to lure unsuspecting players to a location in order to rob them. In another case, a player went looking for a water Pokémon by the river and discovered a dead body. But aside from these unfortunate consequences, people are especially concerned with the effects this game will have on the safety of pedestrians and drivers. Given society’s concern already with distracted drivers and pedestrians when texting or talking on the phone, it’s no surprise that this app creates the same feeling. Already, people are seeing pedestrians carelessly walk into the street or stop in intersections for the purpose of catching a Pokémon. Drivers are guilty of this distracted behavior too. There have been accounts of cars unnecessarily slowing down at intersections, blocking traffic, or erratically pulling over to catch a Pokémon.
The DMV executive deputy commissioner, Terri Egan, stated they “are concerned about the consequences playing this game can have on public safety.” She continued by adding, “Simply put, catching virtual creatures to get to the next level is not worth risking your life or the lives of others.”  In a five year study conducted by the DMV between 2009 and 2013, 300 pedestrians were killed and 15,000 were injured by motor vehicles each year in New York. With this new app, the DMV is concerned that these numbers will only increase.
If you are playing this game, have fun, but be safe. Whether you are a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian, you must be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. Drivers must be on alert of the possibility that bicyclists and pedestrians could be distracted by this game and not aware of an oncoming vehicle. Pedestrians must not be careless when exploring for new Pokémon or risk their lives in an attempt to catch one. Although personal injury may occur due to this app, we can try our best to prevent it.
At LaMarche Safranko Law, we represent pedestrians, runners and bicyclists who are injured because of the negligence of others. To learn more about the dangers of distracted cyclists see our blog on texting while biking.
 Gordon Dickson, ‘Pokemon GO’ game ushers in new era of distracted driving, walking, Star-Telegram (July 12, 2016).
 Michael Xirinachs, NY State: Don’t Play Pokemon Go While Driving or Walking, CBS News (July 12, 2016).
 Victoria E. Freile and Joseph Spector, DMV: Don’t drive and play Pokémon Go, Democrat & Chronicle (July 12, 2016).