Pokemon no? Police warn of augmented reality game’s traffic hazards

Shiamak Unwalla

Victoria traffic police have warned aspiring ‘Pokémon trainers’ of the hazards of playing Pokémon Go in traffic, after the augmented reality mobile device game caused an accident in Berwick, Melbourne.

A 19-year-old driver lost control of his car at a roundabout near Ridgemont Drive and crashed into St Francis Xavier College while reportedly playing the game.

“[Games like Pokémon Go] are a traffic hazard if they are being played whilst driving,” says Sergeant Kris Hamilton of Victoria Police.

After an escalating number of traffic incidents worldwide caused by drivers or pedestrians playing Pokémon Go in traffic, the company that runs the game, Niantic, introduced a pop-up that appears in the game asking players whether they are driving and advising them against doing so.

Pokemon players in Melbourne's CBD. Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/
Pokemon players in Melbourne’s CBD. Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/

Leading Senior Constable Julie-Anne Newman, who posted the story about the Berwick incident on Victoria Police’s Facebook page, wrote: “The 19-year-old did not level up nor collect any stardust or candies, only debris from the crash. Any PokéBalls, eggs or potions the driver may have had remaining only attracted police leaving the wild Pokémon for another day.”

While there were no injuries in the accident, there have been an increasing number of cases of Pokémon Go causing road mishaps in and around Melbourne.

In one case in Melbourne a pedestrian playing the game was the victim of a hit-and-run.

“Pedestrians also need to be aware and mindful when playing the game and not walk out onto roads whilst looking down,” says Sergeant Hamilton.

There have also reportedly been a string of crimes involving people playing Pokémon Go and not paying attention to where they are going.

An armed gunman who tried to rob a bunch of Pokémon Go players in Las Vegas was shot for his efforts by one of the would-be victims.

In another bizarre case, a duo playing Pokémon Go were arrested for trespassing after entering a zoo after hours to look for Pokémon.

A man walked into a pond while trying to catch Pokémon, while another man fell off a cliff because he was chasing an elusive Pokémon.

In just over two months since its launch Pokémon Go has become one of the most successful mobile games of all time.

The game has racked up more than 6 million downloads on the Google Play Store alone, making it among the most highest-grossing apps there.

It’s been a roaring success on Apple devices, and there have also been illegal versions of the game released in countries like India.

The augmented reality game released by Niantic uses a phone’s data package, GPS tracking, and camera to produce a real-time experience for players as ‘Pokémon Trainers.’

Niantic had previously launched another game called Ingress which relied on the same geo-tracking now seen in Pokémon Go.

As the player walks or drives, the Niantic servers check the GPS location in order to spawn various Pokémon that the player then attempts to catch.

The object is for the player to catch each of the 151 available ‘First Generation’ Pokémon.

It is expected that Niantic will add further generations of Pokémon with future updates.

The players catch Pokémon and ‘train’ them while getting resources such as ‘PokéBalls, ’Potions,’ ‘Incense Sticks,’ ‘Pokémon Eggs,’ ‘Lure Modules,’ and ‘Razz Berries’ at ‘Pokestops’ that help the player advance in level.

One of the major features of the game is hatching ‘Pokémon Eggs.’

The game requires movement from the player in order to hatch.

There are ‘Pokémon Eggs’ that require two, five, and 10 kilometres of movement in order to hatch the eggs.

This has proven to be a problem for police, with some players opting to drive around with the game active and further risking traffic accidents.

Because of the nature of the game, players cannot thrive by staying in one place so they need to remain active and move around.

One particularly enthusiastic Pokémon Go player, Surya Kumar, has no regrets despite falling sick after playing the game for three hours in rain.

“It was worth it because I caught a Dodrio, an Alakazam, and an Arcanine. I have 122 other Pokémon. I love the game,” says Mr Kumar.