If you’ve seen an unusually high number of people wandering around, eyes glued to their cell phones, Pokémon Go is likely to blame.
Released less than a week ago, this virtual reality game lets users find and catch Pokémon in “real life.” Using your phone’s camera, Pokémon appear in front of you to capture.
But to collect more monsters you can’t just sit at home watching Netflix. Instead, the game encourages players to explore the world around them. And since you never know where or when one of the creatures will pop up, you need to spend a lot of time looking at your screen so you can catch them before they disappear.
Besides being an undeniably cool concept, Pokémon Go is getting kids—and adults—off the couch and out of the house. That’s a good thing, for the most part. After all, people are reportedly making friends in “real life” while looking for their next catch. Others are going out of their way to walk more to hatch an egg. (Eggs require players to walk a certain number of steps to hatch rewards like experience or even Pokémon.)
Pokémon Go Dangers
Although Pokémon Go is making millions of long-time fans’ dreams come true, it’s also causing injuries and near-miss accidents. Why? People are so obsessed with trying to “catch ‘em all” they’re not paying attention to their surroundings.
Some users have taken to Twitter to recount close calls, with one falling into a ditch. Others are so determined to add another creature to their Pokédex they’re playing the game while driving. And you thought texting and driving was bad.
Already the game has caused at least one major car accident. Tech Insider reported that a driver in Auburn, New York, got into a major crash while playing the augmented reality game.
An Auburn Police Department statement said that the driver "admitted to actively playing the Pokémon Go game while driving causing him to become distracted and run off the roadway into a tree."
With the game's increasing popularity, it isn't a stretch to imagine that similar accidents will occur in the future.
Not convinced? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 431,000 people were injured in 2014 in a distracted driver accident. In that same year, 3,179 people were killed in a crash involving a distracted driver.
Even if you’re not gaming and driving, you need to be aware of other drivers—or pedestrians—who might be. The NHTSA notes that 53 percent of adults with cell phones have been involved in a distracted walker incident. These stats combined with Pokémon Go’s popularity are reason enough to use extra caution while driving.
Want to protect yourself from a possible distracted driver accident? One of the easiest ways is to make sure you have enough car insurance.
In addition to liability insurance, you may want to consider buying collision coverage. Liability insurance covers costs if you’re at fault for a crash. Collision coverage pays for damages if you’re involved in an accident with another vehicle or a stationary object like a telephone pole.
Another possible danger from playing this game? Pokémon Go has unwittingly made it easier for you to be mugged. Armed robbers reportedly used the app in Missouri to lure users to deserted areas.
The O’Fallon Missouri Police department posted on their Facebook page that "the way we believe it was used is you can add a beacon to a Poké stop to lure more players. Apparently they were using the app to locate [people] standing around in the middle of a parking lot or whatever other location they were in.”
Luckily, if you have renters or home insurance, your belongings are protected from theft. Even if you’re robbed somewhere besides your home or apartment, your insurance company will reimburse you for your belongings.
What should you do if you want to play the game without risking injury? The Pokémon app itself might have the answer. Every time a user loads the app, a warning pops up that states, “Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.”
Some states have followed suit and issued notices of their own. The Washington Department of Transportation tweeted out, “No Pokemoning from behind the wheel.”
And in late July, Pokémon will start selling Pokémon Go Plus. This device connects to your phone using Bluetooth. It vibrates or lights up to let you know when a Pokémon is nearby. It will also let users catch Pokémon without looking at their phone.
Selling for $34.99, this device could be the key to enjoying the game without risking your life in the process.