‘Pokemon Go’ players find danger near railroads

 ‘Pokemon Go’ players find danger near railroads
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The maker of the wildly popular “Pokemon Go” game is being warned about players who are hunting virtual characters near railroad tracks.

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In a joint letter to Niantic Labs Inc., the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) said they are concerned about reports that Pokemon characters, “Pokestops” and other virtual objects are being placed near railroad tracks, stations and rail-yard facilities.

The game, which launched this summer and quickly became a massive hit, requires venturing out into the real world using a smartphone to catch Pokemon.

“While the game has brought people together and inspired a sense of exploration, elements of play are putting users in situations where their safety is at risk,” the letter said.

"This not only puts them in danger of being hit by a train, it also endangers the safety of both passengers and crew members aboard trains, workers along the track and members of the public who live or work in the nearby area.”

The game uses a player’s phone camera and GPS system to highlight where Pokemon, battle gyms and Pokestops are lurking in real-world locations.

When a Pokemon is close enough to be captured, a digital creature pops up on the camera screen, juxtaposed against a live view of a user's surroundings.

But the game has drawn concern from safety advocates after reports surfaced that players were using the game while driving. Some state transportation departments have even launched campaigns specifically aimed at urging drivers not to play "Pokemon Go" while behind the wheel.

The FRA and AAR are urging Niantic to consider avoiding placing characters and other virtual points of interest near railroads.

Nearly all rail-related fatalities are caused by trespassing or highway-rail-crossing incidents, they added.

“We are seriously concerned that the focus demanded of Pokemon Go users in play of the game distracts them from their surroundings when near railroad tracks,” the letter said.

“Safety is our shared concern and we at FRA and AAR are prepared to partner on ensuring the safety of both Pokemon Go users and railroad passengers and personnel.”