Wed, Aug 10, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Freeway ‘Pokemon’ face the axe

MONUMENT DRAW:The National Freeway Bureau said that it received 861 reports of people driving while playing, while a monument to Chiang Wei-shui featured a ‘gym’

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The National Freeway Bureau has demanded that the developer of augmented-reality game Pokemon Go stop placing “PokeStops,” and “gyms” along freeways, freeway rest areas and significant landmarks along freeways on its in-game maps.

Within four days of the game’s launch in Taiwan, the National Police Agency said that by Monday, 861 cases had been reported of people driving while playing.

Among these cases, 51 involved car drivers, 801 involved motorcyclists and nine involved “slow” vehicles.

Although the Ministry of Transportation and Communications warned game developer Niantic Inc, as well as players, that railway stations, freeways, airports and other important transport facilities are off-limits, people reported that one of the game’s “gyms” — where people can pit their in-game creatures against other players’ — was at a monument to Taiwanese Cultural Association cofounder Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) near the Toucheng exit of Freeway No. 5 in Yilan County.

Murals inside the nearby Hsuehshan Tunnel were shown as Pokestops — where players can gather in-game items that they might otherwise have to pay for.

The bureau said it is compiling a list of problems the game could generate and would send it to Niantic.

The developer would be officially informed that all freeways, freeway service areas and other facilities along freeways are off-limits to people seeking Pokemon Go challenges, it said.

The bureau said that the monument is near a patrol point for the freeway police and drivers who stop near it face a fine of NT$3,000 to NT$6,000.

The bureau said that rest areas must also not be shown on in-game maps.

Rest areas have parking lots that are accessed by small and large passenger vehicles and it would not be safe for people to gather there to catch Pokemon, it said, adding that Pokemon Go players could become a hazard if they obstruct people buying food or beverages at the facilities.

The Directorate-General of Highways yesterday said that multiple incidents have been reported since the weekend after drivers and pedestrians playing the online game had been seen not paying attention to traffic or their surroundings.

Drivers face fines of up to NT$24,000 if they swerve in and out of traffic or slow down, the highways authority said, adding that drivers must concentrate on the road.

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