Distracted Driving: The New Drunk Driving

Posted July 29, 2016
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On July 17, 2016, Pokémon Go became officially available in Canada. Pokémon Go is a location-based augmented reality mobile game. The app uses the GPS and camera from your phone to allow players to go outside and catch virtual Pokémon. The Pokémon franchise has been popular since the late 1990’s, and the chances are good you’ll see people playing Pokémon Go in your neighbourhood. Players are so desperate to become better at the game and discover new Pokémon characters that they’re willing to put themselves in potentially dangerous situations to do so. With several incidents already caused by pedestrians playing the game, distracted by their phones and walking into the middle of the road, now the concern lies with people playing the game while driving.

Dozens of accidents have been the result of drivers being distracted by Pokémon Go, including several incidents in Canada. In Québec, a car reversed into a police cruiser after which the driver told police, “I’m sorry, I was playing Pokémon Go.” Every time the app has opened a warning from the makers of the game, Niantic, tells gamers to be aware of their surroundings and displays a disclaimer stating the company is not responsible for any property damage, injuries or deaths. The growing concern of distracted driving could be made even worse as more stories of accidents being caused by this mobile sensation emerge.

How does Ontario’s recent reduction in car insurance coverage affect drivers involved in such an accident?  On June the 1st, the Ontario Government cut Statutory accident benefits such as medical, rehabilitation and attendant care in half, which means nearly 8.5 million drivers no longer have the same coverage they once had. We stress the importance of checking your accident benefits in order to keep you and your family covered in the event of an accident. With so many factors affecting your coverage, whether it is a drunk or distracted driver, you don’t want to find out after the fact that you’re no longer covered for medical assistance you might badly need.

Drivers should be aware of the dangers caused by distracted driving. Phone calls, texting, choosing music and typing an address into a GPS while driving all count as forms of distracted driving, resulting in fines and possibly accidents.  We remind people to be conscious of the risks involved with distracted driving, and to check with your insurance company to make sure you have proper coverage in the event of an accident.

In a recent interview with CHCH, our very own Stacey Stevens, personal injury lawyer with Thomson Rogers, had this to say about the new app and its potential dangers:

“Distracted driving is a significant problem on our roads today. According to recent statistics published by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation: distracted drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a collision; and, one person is injured by a distracted driver every 30 seconds.

Now factor in the Pokémon Go app. Players are walking, biking and yes even driving while being completely engrossed, searching for the virtual Pokémon characters that pop up on their mobile screens.

If you are one of those Players who think, I’m only going to look away for a second – I urge you to watch Ontario’s recent #PutDownThePhone video campaign to see how quickly catastrophic injuries can happen.

To add more rhyme and less reason – the recent changes to Ontario’s Statutory Accident Benefits scheme puts motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians at risk of not having adequate insurance coverage in the event of an accident.”

CHCH logo Watch Stacey Steven’s full interview on CHCH here: http://www.chch.com/pokemon-legal-exposure/