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UA study analyzes the hidden dangers behind Pokémon Go

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Carmen Valencia and Carmen Valencia and Carmen Valencia and Carmen Valencia | The Daily Wildcat Biomedical engineering junior Michele Tang and psychology junior Shreena Patel play Pokemon Go on University Boulevard on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Since the app Pokémon Go was introduced in July, researchers across the country have started to analyze how attention consuming games such as Pokémon Go have the potential to cause an increased number of accidents.

Pokemon Go, the most downloaded app ever in its opening week, was originally created to promote healthy and beneficial activity among its players. It enticed its players to look for Pokémon using real-world landmarks and to grow as trainers.

Now, some researchers believe the increased adoption of technology and smartphones can lead to higher numbers of distraction-related traffic collisions.

RELATED: Column: The explosive rise and steady fall of Pokémon Go

Dr. Bellal Joseph and Dr. David Armstrong, both practicing surgeons and researchers in the UA College of Medicine, were intrigued as to how games like Pokémon Go contributed to the number of distraction-related accidents that started happening after the game's release.

Joseph is an associate professor and the UA vice chair of knowledge expansion and Armstrong is professor in biomedical engineering and public health.

"Distracted driving is a very big issue right now — whether it be texting and driving or gaming and playing," Joseph said. "It is almost replacing alcohol as the number one reason for motor vehicle accidents."

Tucson alone had about 10 cases that were directly influenced by Pokémon Go, according to Joseph, but this isn't a solely local issue — it is a national one, as well.

The purpose behind this study was aimed to target the hidden dangers behind the facade Pokémon Go created by exposing the disadvantages games like this produce.

Joseph said specifically at the UA, the use of mobile devices while operating a vehicle is an issue that has been recognized by past studies.

RELATED: Pima County texting ban is now in full effect

He said the detection of this behavior has not gone unrecognized and is being addressed thanks to the efforts of the Banner University Medical Center level-one trauma center which alongside the Student Union Memorial Center launched an inter-prevention program that has led to the creation of signage reminding students to be responsible drivers.

"There is no way we can stop people from texting and driving — as it is, we have laws against it and people still do it," said Lauren Jacobson, a senior — and Pokémon Go player — studying English. "It's impossible and people are going to do what they want to do essentially. If people are going to play Pokémon Go while they are driving and endanger themselves and others, unfortunately I don't think there is much we can do to stop them."

Jacobson said this game is not designed to be played in the car and that certain features such as tracking distance are not recorded within the game when you are driving.

She said it might in fact be harder to catch the egg or Pokémon you have been after when driving, but the use of this game within the car can be linked back to the convenience the transportability a car offers.

Nicholas Neal, an undeclared sophomore said he believes the app should implement a way to monitor the usage of the game in a car.

Neal suggested that once someone hit a certain speed limit within the game, the app would disable until the speed was reduced.

Neal said over the summer, he would play at Reid Park — a popular place to play Pokémon Go — and witnessed individuals driving and playing simultaneously bouncing from one side of the street to the other.

Joseph said this problem affects both people who actively play Pokémon Go and those who do not. He said that because of the mass presence this type of study has on the Tucson community, it would be classified under injury prevention research.

Joseph said studies like these demonstrate the reliance everyone has on technology, but they also show the unfortunate dangers that tag along.


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