According to The Seattle Times, Pokémon Go is a new temptation for distractible drivers and has recently caught the attention of health researchers who claim that at least 11,000 people a day play while they drive or walk in traffic.

The global video game encourages people to collect virtual, animated creatures who wield a distinct power such as fire, poison or electricity.

“Please don’t catch and drive, it’s more dangerous than texting while driving,” said a statement by the Washington State Patrol, which Monday publicized a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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Image courtesy of Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times, retrieved from http://www.seattletimes.com/entertainment/video-games/pokemon-worse-than-texting-police-say-asking-players-please-dont-catch-and-drive/. 

Researchers mined social media from a 10-day period in July that included 14 Pokémon-related crashes. They located 345,433 tweets where keywords included Pokémon and words similar to “driving.”

• Eighteen percent of tweets indicated a person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokémon and driving”)

• Eleven percent indicated a passenger was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon”).

• Four percent indicated a pedestrian was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon Go”).

“Traditional surveillance is needed to clarify our findings,” the report said. “Still, even with a limited scope covering just 10 days there were more than 110,000 discrete instances where drivers or pedestrians were distracted by Pokémon Go and some crashed.”

Washington state troopers say that on July 18, a driver on Highway 202 in Fall City was playing Pokémon Go, and struck a stopped car carrying a mother and son, who weren’t injured. A week before, a trooper stopped two drivers in Wenatchee who were playing the game.

The app already is restricted when speeds exceed 10 mph — but the JAMA writers, led by John Ayers of San Diego State University, say it should be disabled even further, since so many people mix gaming and driving.

Any health benefits of Pokémon Go, which encourages people to walk and even records the distances, are being nullified by the risk of crashes, Ayers says.

Meanwhile, state troopers blame distracted driving for causing most serious crashes among young drivers. Nationally, after years of improvement, fatal crashes increased 7.2 percent in 2015 when 35,082 people died. One-tenth of those crashes involved distraction.

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