Pokémon Go, a new mobile game which tasks players with leaving their homes to hunt Pokémon in the real world via an augmented-reality interface, has some players concerned about real-world safety issues. So it's not surprising that bogus reports of a massive Pokémon Go-related traffic accident and spike in pedestrian injuries went viral along with the hashtag #DontPokemonGoAndDrive this weekend.
Appearing on sites called CartelPress and Stubhill News, the stories make a variety of extremely dubious claims about the new app and traffic safety. The CartelPress version claims a player caused "one of the worst traffic accidents" after stepping in front of the vehicle of another man who was also playing while driving. It quotes a make-believe officer as saying Pokémon Go could "double or triple the amount of incidents that happen due to driving while using a mobile device."
The Stubhill News version is more obviously satirical, quoting a researcher on traffic safety as saying "We may lose a few along the way, but the losses will be dwarfed by increases in quality of life and life expectancy ... Sick! Caught a Charmander!"
As #DontPokemonGoAndDrive trended on Twitter this weekend, it remained unclear whether the satirical articles were partially responsible for the hashtag or merely attempting to cash in on it, though credulous social media users spread screenshots of the two posts online.
Others, perhaps realizing the hashtag sat upon a throne of lies, simply joked about it.
No serious reports of major Pokémon Go-related traffic incidents seem to have as of yet hit the news, but the CDC estimates every day distracted drivers are involved in 8 deaths and 1,161 injuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries annually. So yes, Pokéballs and driving are a bad combination.
While the app is much safer on foot, users are reminded to maintain visual awareness of their surroundings at all times. Case in point: on Friday, Pokémon Go led a 19-year-old Wyoming girl searching for water Pokémon to a dead body floating in the river.