Pokémon Go is a free-to-play game for iOS and Android devices. Since its debut, the game has exploded in usage, surpassing Twitter as the most popular app in the app store.
At its core, Pokémon Go is a game that uses a smartphone’s GPS and gyroscope sensors to determine a player’s location. Based on that information, the game displays a random variety of fictional creatures called Pokémon through the phone’s camera. The game also marks popular and prominent locations, such as parks, memorials and other frequently visited areas, as places where players can compete with each other and collect free in-game items. These areas are called Pokéstops and generally attract large crowds of players throughout a given day.
In essence, the goal of the game is to walk to various locations and catch as many of the Pokémon as possible. And, while the game may seem harmless, it carries a number of inherent risks—risks that you should be aware of in order to protect yourself and others.
Because Pokémon Go requires players to be fixated on their phone screens, there’s an increased risk of auto accidents if people play this game while driving. This is despite distracted driving being forbidden in most provinces.
In fact, just a week after the game launched, a driver playing Pokémon Go sent two Quebec City police officers to the hospital after crashing into a police cruiser. And, that’s just one example—accidents caused by Pokémon Go have been reported all across Canada.
Drivers aren’t the only ones at risk of injury either. Pedestrians and cyclists should be mindful of their surroundings, as inattentive motorists playing Pokémon Go can pose a serious threat.
If you own a business that employs drivers, staff should be reminded of your driving policies and to never use mobile devices when operating a motor vehicle. Keeping in mind the basic rules of the road can keep both drivers and pedestrians safe when it comes to Pokémon Go.
As previously stated, Pokémon Go marks prominent locations as Pokéstops. It is at these stops where a player can collect items for free, and, if a special item (a “lure module”) is employed, attract Pokémon more easily.
When this lure module is used, nearby players that have their app open are notified and are likely to be drawn to the Pokéstop. By exploiting this method, thieves can attract Pokémon Go players to secluded locations and potentially rob them.
Pokémon Go players should refrain from playing the game late at night or alone. Whenever possible, stay in well-lit and high-traffic areas.
Business and property owners should be on the lookout as well for suspicious individuals to help protect themselves. The popularity of Pokémon Go has led to more and more foot traffic in areas that previously may not have been as active. This, in turn, has increased the likelihood of an incident like vandalism or burglary.
It’s important to note whether or not Pokémon Go is popular around your property, as this could lead to further concerns regarding theft.
Injuries on Personal or Business Property
Because Pokémon Go requires users to concentrate on their phone screens, it’s possible that they could become distracted and hurt themselves while playing the game.
And, in the event that a Pokémon Go user is injured on your personal or business property, you could be held responsible. That’s where property insurance can help.
Property insurance generally includes something called occupiers’ liability, which will ensure that you are equipped with the proper protection if a Pokémon Go player hurts him- or herself on your property.
For added protection, property owners are encouraged to post warning signs that highlight nearby hazards. Additionally, designating areas on your property as Pokémon Go-safe can help players further avoid injury.
Through the nature of the game, Pokémon Go players are encouraged to explore their surroundings. However, this can lead to them unlawfully breaking into spaces, which is a problem for both players and property owners alike.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has warned Pokémon Go players that they will be apprehended if they are caught playing the game in private areas. Players could also face fines if they are found in violation of Section 177 of the Canadian Criminal Code, which states: “Everyone who, without lawful excuse, the proof of which lies on him, loiters or prowls at night on the property of another person near a dwelling-house situated on that property is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.”
Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, is now accepting requests for the removal of Pokéstops, which could dissuade players from certain areas. But it may not be enough.
Utilizing no trespassing signage around areas you do not want Pokémon Go players to explore can be a good first line of defence against unwanted visitors. Contact your local authorities if you believe a person is trespassing on your property.
Mitigating the Risk
There are a variety of risks inherent with Pokémon Go and they can vary in severity depending on your situation. In general, keep in mind the following safety tips:
- Secure your property. Mitigate potential dangers, like trespassing and theft, by utilizing signage and fencing. Keep your car, business and house locked at night and ensure that expensive items are out of view.
- Remove safety hazards. Examine your premises, looking for any hazards that Pokémon Go players could injure themselves on. Focusing on areas of high traffic can also help identify common hazards.
- Report issues. If you see an individual using Pokémon Go while he or she is driving or if you are concerned about player safety for any other reason, contact your local authorities. They can help address any issues and take action if necessary. This will help keep Pokémon Go users safe and can prevent issues from worsening.
Pokémon Go isn’t likely to decrease in popularity anytime soon, and it’s important for businesses, players and community residents to be aware of common liability risks associated with the app. Doing so can help prevent a catastrophe before it occurs.
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