Real Dangers in the Fake Pokemon World

Real headaches for public safety departments around the country as Pokemon Go users find themselves in accidents, mishaps, even real danger.

It seems the Pokemon Go crime wave hoax fabricated by 26-year-old Pablo Reyes on CartelPress.com foreshadowed several real-life, non-fictional accidents. Incidents caused by the immensely popular augmented-reality smartphone game range from mishaps and misadventures to near-tragedies.

While CartelPress.com’s report of a major highway accident occurring in Massachusetts after a man stopped in the middle of a multilane highway “to catch Pikachu” was made in jest, on Tuesday, Texas A&M University police tweeted that a parked car was struck from behind after the “driver had exited to catch a Pokemon.”

Tuesday night in Auburn, New York, 28-year-old Steven Cary crashed his car into a tree while playing Pokemon Go. Police Chief Shawn Butler told The Daily Beast that Cary—a former U.S. Marine—admitted to playing the game while driving.

The terrifying sightings of locals playing Pokemon Go while driving, as well as an onslaught of images featuring Pokemon on car dashboards, prompted New York state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to issue public safety warnings.

In a press statement released on July 12, DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner Terri Egan reminded the public that “a fun game can have tragic real-world consequences.” She urged New Yorkers to “put their phones down instead of playing the popular Pokemon Go game while behind the wheel or walking near or across roadways.”

Unfortunately, Autumn Deiseroth of Tarentum, Pennsylvania didn’t receive such a warning. The 15-year-old was hit by a car while walking home after catching Pokemon. Apparently, the route home with the most Pokemon happened to involve crossing a busy highway during rush hour traffic.

Local police departments are regularly posting reminders about the dangers of Pokemon Go. “Don’t catch and drive” messages have been popping up on many public safety Twitter and Facebook feeds. Highways have even begun to put up emergency notices that read, “Don’t Pokemon and Drive.”

The Mesa County Sheriff’s office in Colorado was spotted sporting window decals on patrol cars featuring Pikachu, a popular Pokemon character, shouting, “Arrive alive. Don’t catch and drive!!!”

But it’s not just traffic accidents that have police officers worried. On Wednesday, firefighters were called to rescue two men in North San Diego County who had walked off a cliff while trying to capture animated creatures. The two men were playing the game separately—firefighters only found the second man, who was unconscious a few feet below, when they went to rescue the first.

And just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean a rising Pokemon “trainer” won’t fall off the edge of a bridge or subway platform. One woman tweeted: “I told myself I wouldn’t do anything dangerous for pokemongo but here I am under a bridge for a damn staryu.”

Two other users posted pictures of pokemon on the edge of rooftops, one in Dublin and another in Oxford. So at least we know it’s not just Americans willing to put aside all common sense to “catch ’em all.”

The New York City Transit recently tweeted a number of warnings due to the large number of Pokemon being found in subway stations. One of these advisories included a screenshot showing a subway station that had been made a Pokestop captioned “we know you’re searching far and wide, but please don’t catch Pokemon while walking down stairs.” Another said, “we know you gotta catch ’em all, but stay behind that yellow line when in the subway.”

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In another bizarre incident, The Guardian reported that a group of teenages got lost in Wiltshire while searching for Pokemon in a network of underground caves. They had to be evacuated by a group of firefighters and mine rescue experts. The Trowbridge Fire Station posted a tweet which read “3 Pumps, 2 Rope Rescue units respond to Box to assist 4 people lost in the mines.”

The incidents have gotten so out of hand that some companies are banning Pokemon Go for safety reasons. According to a memo posted by 9to5mac.com, the U.S. aerospace company Boeing reportedly told employees: “We had a near miss for a user getting hurt while playing the game. Due to that, we had to react and disable to Pokemon app from all devices.”

When called to confirm the app’s ban, however, Bernard Choi, director of Director of Communications for Boeing, said that the ban “does not apply only to Pokemon Go” and was a reiteration of an existing policy which “applies to any use of mobile devices while walking.”