National

Vehicle accident deaths lead to 'Pokemon Go' being disabled while traveling at speed

Kyodo

The popular smartphone game “Pokemon Go” will now be disabled so that all passengers and the driver will not be able to play when the vehicle is traveling above a certain speed, the application’s operator said Tuesday following a request from a local government and police in central Japan.

The change took effect globally Monday after the Ichinomiya Municipal Government in Aichi Prefecture and the local prefectural police demanded that Niantic Inc. take safety precautions following the death of two people in car accidents caused by drivers playing the game.

The city government received nine threatening emails after requesting that the U.S. operator of the smartphone app make the change following a boy’s death.

Players are no longer able to spin Pokestops to get items at driving speed. Niantic had already banned Pokemon from appearing in the game when the user is traveling over a certain speed.

“The restriction is surely a step forward,” said Takatoshi Noritake, the father of a 9-year-old boy, Keita, who was fatally struck on Oct. 26 by a truck while walking on a pedestrian crosswalk on his way home from school in Ichinomiya.

The truck driver admitted to police that he was playing the augmented-reality game when he hit the boy.

The 46-year-old father said the game still allows players to gather Pokemon and items at intersections and on the street. He urged the operator to introduce more measures to ensure players’ safety.

So far in Japan, there have been three fatal car accidents, including the Noritake case, caused by drivers playing the game since the app was introduced on July 22, according to the National Police Agency. Two of the three accidents occurred in Aichi Prefecture.

A Vietnamese woman in her 20s who lived in Kasugai, Aichi Prefecture, died Aug. 25 after being hit by a car while she was crossing a road on a bicycle on Aug. 11.

The driver told police he was distracted at the time of the accident as he was trying to charge his mobile phone because the battery had almost run flat due to playing the game.

A 72-year-old woman was also killed after being hit by a van driven by a 39-year-old man on a road in the city of Tokushima on Aug. 23.

The driver was sentenced to 14 months in prison on Oct. 31.