The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) are urging New Yorkers to put their phones down instead of playing the popular Pokémon GO game while behind the wheel or walking near or across roadways. Pokémon GO, a free mobile app released on July 6, utilizes smartphone cameras and GPS to allow players to search the real world to find and catch species of Pokémon. Unfortunately, there are reports from around the country and across multiple social media platforms of users playing Pokémon GO while they are driving or crossing the street, prompting warnings from law enforcement and traffic safety partners.
“This new, all-consuming Pokémon GO craze has caught the entire country by surprise and as such we are concerned about the consequences playing this game can have on public safety,” said DMV Executive Deputy Commissioner and GTSC Acting Chair Terri Egan. “Distracted driving is behavior we at DMV and GTSC speak out against all year long. What is meant to be a fun game can have tragic real-world consequences if you’re playing it while driving or crossing the street. Simply put, catching virtual creatures to get to the next level is not worth risking your life or the lives of others.”
Governor Cuomo announced in April that efforts by state and local law enforcement have resulted in an 840 percent increase in tickets for texting while driving in New York State since 2011. While the number of cell phone tickets have decreased each year since 2011, texting tickets issued during the same period have increased substantially with the proliferation of smartphones. Pedestrian safety is also a New York State priority. A Department of Transportation analysis of five years of statewide traffic safety data from 2009 to 2013 showed that approximately 300 pedestrians are killed and 15,000 are injured by motor vehicles each year.
New York State prohibits all drivers from using portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. Illegal activity includes:
- Holding a portable electronic device.
- Talking on a handheld mobile telephone.
- Composing, sending, reading, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving, or retrieving electronic data such as e-mail, text messages, or websites.
- Viewing, taking, or transmitting images.
- Playing games.
- When the driver uses a hands-free mobile telephone, which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand.
- Using a handheld electronic device that is affixed to a vehicle surface.
- Using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle.
- When the purpose of the phone call is to communicate an emergency to a police or fire department, a hospital or physician’s office, or an ambulance corps.
- When operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of official duties.