Don't "Pokemon Go" and drive

Trying to catch Pikachu when you are behind the wheel could cause a crash

By Bruce Hamilton - The Morning Show anchor
Courtesy Nintendo

TAMPA, Fla. - Pokémon Go has become one of the most popular app based games over the past few days. Those playing the game – identified as “Pokémon trainers” - can be found staring at their phones while walking along city streets throughout the U.S.; but there is danger if those “trainers” decide to play while behind the wheel.

“Trying to catch a Pokémon while behind the wheel is a major distraction and increases your risk of causing a crash,” said Josh Carrasco, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Put your phone down while driving. Just one quick text or glance to see the next Pokéstop could end up costing you or someone else their life.”

It is estimated at any given daylight hour there are 660,000 motorists using a cell phone while driving in the United States. Distracted driving killed 3,179 people and is responsible for 1 out of every 10 deaths on our nation’s roadways, according to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In Florida, more than 200 motor vehicle fatalities and 39,000 injuries were caused by distracted driving last year. The problem has grown so large that distracted driving crashes accounted for 12.2 percent of all crashes throughout the state, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Playing games like ‘Pokémon Go’ while driving is a distraction just like sending or receiving a text while behind the wheel,” said Karen Morgan, Public Policy Manager, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Unfortunately, it’s hard for law enforcement officers to crack down on distracted drivers. Texting while driving is only a secondary offense in Florida. This means officers must witness you committing another offense in order to cite you for texting. Strengthening the law to primary enforcement will send a clear message that distracted driving is a dangerous behavior.”

Florida voters agree that the current law does not go far enough. Four out of five Florida licensed drivers support strengthening the ‘texting while driving’ law.

Drivers engaging in an activity such as texting can remain mentally distracted for up to 27 seconds. According to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, updating social media on your mobile device is just slightly less cognitively challenging than solving a complicated math problem while driving.

In a recent AAA Consumer Pulse survey, the majority of Florida motorists (95%) believe that texting while driving is the most dangerous thing you can do behind the wheel, followed by driving when tired (88%), grooming (78%) and talking on a hand-held cell phone (66%). Click here to view the survey results. The majority of Floridians (78%) support changing texting and driving from a secondary to a primary offense.

Here are AAA’s top five tips to avoid texting while driving:

1. Silence your cell phone and turn off the vibration mechanism: Airplane mode is a setting available on many mobile phones. When activated, it suspends many of the device's signal transmitting functions, thereby disabling the phone's capacity to place or receive calls or use text messaging.  

2. Ask for help: Remind the people in your vehicle to be a good passenger and enlist their help. Ask your passengers to handle tasks such as texting, placing a call or re-programming your GPS.   

3. Ask family, friends and colleagues to respect your commute: Set mobile boundaries and politely ask them not to contact you during the hours of your commute.

4. Place your phone in the glove compartment or trunk: The old adage, ‘out of sight, out of mind’ can be applied here. Wait until you’re at your destination or safely pull into a gas station or rest area to check messages.

5. Download a safety app: Get some technological help. Many mobile safety apps can help discourage texting while driving.