Pedestrians, Cyclists and Drivers Are Taking Great Risks

Dangerous Distraction in Road Traffic – "Pokémon Go" Increases Risk of Accidents

Jul 22, 2016
  • Several accidents caused by playing the smartphone game in traffic
  • At 50 km/h, a second of inattention is equivalent to 15 meters of blind driving
  • DEKRA urges road users to focus on the traffic

The hype about the smartphone game “Pokémon Go” has been growing around the world since its launch just over two weeks ago. Players are thrilled, but the app is a real problem in terms of road safety. Many accidents have already happened in the USA. Police in Germany and other EU member states also fear that the game will lead to a rise in the risk of accidents. The expert organization DEKRA strongly advises against “hunting monsters” in road traffic.

The game was first released in the USA, on July 6. One week later, it came out in Germany, and other European countries followed. Since then, the whole world seems to have “Pokémon” fever, with players hunting for virtual monsters with their smartphones on roads, sidewalks, town squares and in buildings.

But hunting monsters in road traffic entails great risks. In the USA, there have already been numerous rear-end collisions and at least one serious collision with a tree in New York State in connection with the augmented reality app. Drivers are stopping in the middle of traffic because of a highly sought-after Pokémon nearby. And motorcyclists have been stopped by police for fastening their cell phones to the handlebars with the game running.

The risk of distraction associated with “Pokémon Go” in road traffic is huge. The app automatically registers the location of players using the GPS function of their smartphones.

“If you want to catch a monster, you need to look at your phone constantly. As a result, you stop paying attention to what's going on around you. In the worst-case scenario, this can be fatal,” warns Clemens Klinke, member of the DEKRA SE Management Board and head of the Automotive business unit.

DEKRA experts are calling for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians to keep their undivided attention on road traffic and not to let themselves be distracted by their smartphones. “Many people do not seem to realize the extent of the risk they are taking when they use their cell phones in road traffic.” For example, at 50 km/h, drivers who look at their phone for five seconds travel a distance of nearly 70 meters within this time, unable to react to what is happening on the road. At 50 km/h, just one second of inattention is equivalent to approximately 15 meters of blind driving.

Before the release of “Pokémon Go,” DEKRA had already pointed out the dangers of using smartphones in road traffic. A survey conducted by DEKRA Accident Research in six European capitals found that around 17% of all pedestrians observed were using their smartphones while crossing the road.

„Europe has been very successful in reducing the number of road fatalities in the past decades. However, in the past couple of years the numbers have been on the rise again in several countries and most recently also in the EU as a whole”, says Clemens Klinke. “We consider the topics of attention and distraction one of the focus areas for further improvement of road safety.”

Incidentally, “Pokémon Go” can be dangerous in other areas besides road traffic. In California, two players fell off a cliff on the Pacific coast that rises more than 15 meters above the beach. Many other falls have also been reported.