The newest app craze sweeping the country is Pokemon Go, a smartphone game created by Niantic and the Pokemon Company and released over the summer. The app uses smart phone cameras and GPS tracking, which when integrated with the app, allows you to see and “capture” the Pokemon characters in “real time” as you walk (or drive) nearly anywhere. While hailed by many as a great way to get children, teenagers and adults alike out of the house and on their feet, the hordes of people walking through city streets, parks, buildings and busy intersections focusing on the screen instead of their surroundings are causing accidents and injuries all over the world.
To date, there are increasing reports of hospitalizations caused by the inattention of people while “catching Pokemon.” People have tripped over things, walked into poles and trees, fallen into holes and ditches (and two men in California off of a cliff), and they have walked directly into traffic - all as a result of this game, which seems to have a “zombie-like” effect on many.
While the concern for self-injury is high, however, this new obsession also poses significant risks to the non-playing public. Since the app works anywhere, there have been reported vehicle collisions caused by drivers suspected of Pokemon chasing while driving. Since the proliferation of the smartphone, texting and emailing while behind the wheel has caused thousands of accidents, many fatal, and this presents yet another challenge to safe drivers on the road, as well as pedestrians, bicyclists, Pedicabs and all of the other individuals sharing the crowded city streets. While the clear message is not to drive and play Pokemon, many people who fail to heed the advice can cause serious accidents. Similarly, people walking distractedly into traffic have caused vehicles to collide in avoidance of the unaware pedestrian. Injuries have also been reported as a result of pedestrians walking into other pedestrians, resulting in injuries.
A proposed law, entitled “An Act to Prohibit the use of Mobile Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle,” now amended Bill S.2110 referred in January to the House Committee on Ways and Means, seeks ban the use of all handheld mobile devices while driving, except to “activate, deactivate or initiate a voice communication.” §13B. Fines for violating the proposed law will remain at $100 for the first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for the third or subsequent offense; however, the third or subsequent offense will be considered a moving violation and could affect your insurance premiums. While this law, if passed, may help curb the problem, people currently need to be hypervigilant, so as to avoid those under the spell of the game.
In motor vehicle accidents caused by this craze, a citation under M.G.L. c. 90, §13B issued to a distracted driver will most likely be admissible as some evidence of negligence; however, even without a citation, a jury would likely find negligence - or even recklessness - where someone distracted by a cellphone while driving causes injury or death to another.
SUGARMAN has extensive experience litigating motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted drivers. If you are injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. SUGARMAN has experience in cases like this and can help. Please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information on issues affecting Massachusetts drivers, please visit SUGARMAN's blog.