A man in upstate New York crashed his vehicle into a tree Wednesday night in what is believed to be the nation’s first wreck involving a driver playing the hot new Pokémon Go game. Law enforcement and safety officials are worried many more will follow.
This week electronic billboards along Wisconsin highways tell motorists to “drive now, catch Pokémon later.” Other agencies have taken to Twitter and Facebook warning drivers not to hunt for animated monsters while behind the wheel.
Enter some quick entrepreneurs. A few cash-minded people with a vehicle are posting Craigslist ads offering transportation to Pokémon players who would rather catch a ride than walk.
In Minneapolis, one advertisement promises to drive players to “Pokéstops,” gyms and other places in the city where players can capture monsters made famous years ago by trading cards, cartoons and video games. The cost: $25 per person for two hours.
“I will drive you around Minneapolis metro area while you play Pokémon Go. You tell me where to go, will make stops whenever needed!” the ad reads. “Rides will include snacks and beverages. Wi-Fi included Comfortable car with room for 4.”
Similar ads have popped up in Baltimore; Portland, Ore.; New York; Houston and Vancouver, where some services start at as much as $40 per hour.
Though the game is meant to be played by walking, hiring a chauffeur might not be such a bad idea. Some motorists have been caught playing the free smartphone game, you guessed it, while driving.
Which prompted this warning from AAA Minneapolis:
“Folks should not be attempting to use any mobile apps while they’re driving. If you’re not fully focused on driving, you are increasing your risk of an accident,” said spokeswoman Sabrina Caprioli. “Games are meant to be fun — causing an accident and/or hurting someone isn’t a part of that. No matter what app or game has you excited at the moment, always keep your eyes and focus on the road when you’re behind the wheel.”
And from the we-should-not-have-to-tell-you-this department, this message from the Texas Department of Transportation:
“Y’all. Please don’t make us have to create a campaign called ‘Don’t Pokemon-Go and Drive.’ We know you have to catch them all, but only look for Pokémon when you are not behind the wheel. Also, don’t stop traffic just for PokéStops, and don’t cross the street without paying attention.”
No Pokémon Go-related distracted driving crashes have been reported in Minnesota, said Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the State Patrol.
“When it comes to driving, Pokémon can wait,” he added. “You might be a good driver and be paying attention, but you are sharing the road with those who might not.”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768