A 9-year-old boy was hit and killed in a tragic road accident in central Japan. According to police reports, the driver of the vehicle didn't see the boy because he was playing #PokemonGo.
As reported by The Japan Times, the accident occurred at approximately 4:10 p.m. local time on Wednesday, Oct. 26, in the city of Ichinomiya in Aichi Prefecture. The boy, named Keita Noritake, was hit by a truck while crossing a street on his way home from school. The fourth-grade student died two hours later.
The truck driver, a 36-year-old man called Nobusuke Kawai, was arrested at the scene of the accident. The Aichi Prefectural Police Department report that Kawai confessed that he was not keeping his eyes on the road due to being distracted by Pokémon Go. Apparently the driver admitted to habitually keeping the app open whilst on the job.
Tragic Death Triggers Impassioned Warnings
The Aichi Prefectural Police Department had tried to raise awareness about the dangers of using a smartphone while driving back in August, posting warnings on its website. Following the tragic accident, the department’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications posted two public service announcements on their Twitter account. The first expressed their sorrow over the death of the child, and the second stressed the risks of using a smartphone while driving, imploring people to keep their eyes on their surroundings instead of staring at a screen.
This isn't just a Japanese problem. Police departments all over the world have issued public warnings about people becoming so engrossed in Pokémon Go that they lose awareness of their surroundings in their quest to catch 'em all, endangering the lives of themselves and others in the process. A number of Pokémon Go related deaths, injuries, and incidents of property damage have occurred over the summer, leading some of its detractors to call for it to be banned on safety grounds.
Developers and players both need to be aware of the risks of AR gaming
Niantic actually attempted to head off concerns about driving while playing Pokémon Go. At first, it relied on an honor system, asking people in cars to report whether they were a driver or passenger, but a recent update actually blocks Pokemon from appearing around you if the game detects that you're moving at more than 30mph.
While these attempts by the developers to minimize risk are laudable, it is still in large part the responsibility of the players to play responsibly in public. As Augmented Reality becomes a hot trend in gaming, we could be looking at future games which are even more immersive or engrossing than Pokémon Go. We all want our games to be so fun and addictive that they hold our attention, but it's important to have one's priorities straight. Simple human laziness and selfishness mean that there's a high risk of accidents if we don't stay mindful of our environment and the people around us.
Keita Noritake's tragic death is a reminder to keep our eyes on the road and our heads in the real world, and we'd like to urge our readers to think twice before they game and drive.