Let’s get this out of the way: Pokémon Go is meant for walking. But where I live, it’s also upwards of 100 degrees outside right now. And besides, walking? This is America; that’s for suckers. But for those tempted to play the game while driving, it’s proven extremely dangerous. We’ve seen driving players hit trees, and at least two have even hit cop cars—one in Baltimore and another in Montréal.
So, if you must catch ‘em all in a car, there are some things that can be done to mitigate the risk of crashing into police, being charged with vehicular manslaughter or just being bad at the game. Here are some rules to follow.
Don’t! Just don’t. Let me say this again for good measure: DON’T.
I know there’s at least one or two of you out there who are thinking, “Ha! I am a multitasking god! Your mortal rules can not apply to me.” You can eat a cheeseburger with your knee as you put on make-up with your elbow and steer the car with your chin, and you’ve done it before. That’s the problem.
Pokémon Go requires your full attention. Driving also requires your full attention. Yes, there’s the augmented reality mode, and you can leave that AR feature on to put Pokémon on a backdrop of whatever’s in front of you. Problem is, you’re then focusing on catching the Pokémon instead of the background of reality.
The little suckers move around in AR mode, too! It’s one thing to walk around your apartment trying to catch a particularly jump-happy Pokémon. It’s much worse to do so while also trying to drive. You can’t easily spin around in the driver’s seat if a Pokémon darts sideways, and it takes an absurd amount of your attention to follow them around anyway.
So, keep it in park if you’re going to do anything in the game. You can enjoy the comfortable seats, luxurious cupholders and life-sustaining air conditioning of your car’s interior, but don’t play the game itself unless your car is safely parked, and out of the way of other traffic.
Simply put: “P” means “play.” Or, if you have a manual transmission, don’t even think about playing until you’ve yanked the parking brake.
The great thing about the Pokémon Go interface is that it gives you a map. You can tap on further away gyms and Pokéstops to see where they are before they’re in range, and thus, you can figure out where you’d like to go next without the app distracting you from the task of driving.
Find a few points of interest, write them down, or put them in your car’s navigation unit. Then drive there! Driving is great. When you park, do so in a safe and legal location. Be sure to follow all applicable traffic and parking laws as you normally would.
One big downside to the game is that it has to be on and running to work, or to log those brief moments where you’re traveling at low speeds (more on this later). This will drain your battery life fast, according to anyone who’s ever played the game for more than 30 minutes.
Fortunately, most cars now come with power outlets, so your car is bizarrely well-suited for hunting Pokémon. Once you have your next Pokéstop determined, plug your phone in, throw it on silent, and forget about it until your next stop. Then you’ll pull up with a fully recharged phone with more than enough battery life to stuff your next gym full of Magikarp.
If you’re the kind of person who is tempted by phone sounds, hide it in a cubbyhole. Out of sight, out of mind. If you know you’ll still somehow hear it vibrate, turn off that function as well. If you really have no self-control, stick your phone in the trunk.
I will say that my fear of becoming That Guy who mowed down an entire median full of ornamental shrubberies while playing Pokémon Go has made me a less distracted driver. With the game on, gone is my temptation to glance down at text messages at stop lights. I simply don’t want to interrupt the game or get caught using it behind the wheel.
I’m always looking for shortcuts. So, naturally, the idea of tossing my phone in the trunk to run a few errands—or laps on a race track—to hatch an egg sounded like a solid plan.
Nope. The app was one step ahead of that idea. After my roughly 48-kilometer drive to test this idea barely netted any km towards egg hatching, I wondered what was up.
Turns out, there’s a speed limit on what the game will log in terms of distance traveled. While I couldn’t find the limit published on any official channels, one unofficial source on Quora claimed the app is limited to 20 kph—which sounds about right.
Because you have to drive safely, we don’t recommend puttering around at speeds slower than 20 kph on public roads. That’s only about 12 mph for those of us not fully dedicated to the metric system. 12! You would blow the fuse in your horn if you got stuck behind some jamoke doing 12 mph on a public road.
It’s still worth having the app on and hidden in your car as it will still log that brief bit of travel under 12 mph, but don’t expect it to hatch eggs much faster. There are better ways to cheat this, after all, some of which even involve the use of remote-control cars.
Rather, do what the game wants you to do: get out and explore. See your city’s landmarks. If you have an egg to hatch, drive to a park that has a few stops in it.
Pick Pokéstops that coincide with other errands you have to do. My usual coffee shop, for example, is next door to a gym. That’s convenient! I’m out of my car anyway and it’s a place I don’t mind hanging out for a little while.
Once you’re at a stop and have caught all the new Pokémon you can, you can start the process all over again: pick a new Pokéstop or gym to drive to based on the options available, toss your silent phone on a charger out of reach, and have at it.