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Japanese cops are handing out hundreds of traffic tickets to ‘Pokémon Go’ players

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The creatures at the heart of the most successful mobile game ever were born in Japan, so it’s no surprise gamers there wasted little time in signing up to the craze that is Pokémon Go.

Trouble is, some of the game’s fans clearly can’t resist looking out for new Pokémon while driving along, a situation that’s resulted in cops handing out hundreds of traffic tickets in the two weeks since the game launched there.

The Japanese authorities said this week that more than 700 traffic offenses have so far been committed in connection with the hugely popular smartphone game in which players travel the real world in the hunt for digital pocket monsters.

Between Pokémon Go‘s July 22 launch and Tuesday this week, the police have ticketed a total of 727 individuals caught playing the game while operating a vehicle, motorcycle, or bicycle, according to Tokyo Reporter (via Sankei Shimbun).

Fifteen accidents were reportedly caused by players distracted by the game while operating a vehicle, though details of the incidents weren’t given. In around 20 cases, property damage was caused by cyclists playing Pokémon Go while riding along, the report said.

Of course, it’s not only in Japan where things have been going awry for those obsessed with the game. Just last week, an Australian driver in Melbourne hit the headlines when he crashed his car into a school while playing the augmented-reality game. Before that, a Baltimore man admitted he’d been playing it when he drove into, of all things, a cop car.

Ridesharing giant Uber is also well aware of the game’s potential to distract road users, prompting the company to warn its fleet of drivers to keep an eye out for other drivers playing the game, as well as Pokémon Go pedestrians ambling distractedly into the road.

A recent update to Pokémon Go has apparently made it more difficult to play effectively while driving. It involves a reduction in the game’s scan refresh rate, as well as a further limit in the scan radius. The changes should mean that someone moving at speed, such as a car driver, will find it harder to spot nearby Pokémon Go gameplay opportunities. Those continuing to play the game at an altogether more leisurely pace – i.e. on foot – are unlikely to notice anything different.

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