The Texas Department of Transportation's digital media manager, Becky Ozuna, has not played Pokémon Go just yet.
But she's pretty sure there's a good chance that, based on the massive amount of interest shown in the new smartphone game in just one week, people will likely become so attached to it that they'll want to catch Pokémon while driving. Which TxDOT is not okay with — as Ozuna and the highway transportation agency made clear in a massively successful social media campaign yesterday.
So here's how the game works, as we explained in "How to Become the Very Best Pokémon Go Player in Houston" Tuesday: Using your phone's GPS and clock, the app will prompt Pokémon to appear in your everyday surroundings, showing up only on your cellphone screen. You might find Pikachu in the parking lot at the mall or Bulbasaur down by White Oak Bayou. The goal is, lest you have forgotten the theme song, to catch 'em all.
But after reading on the Internet about how intensely people have been hunting down Pokémon seemingly everywhere (seriously: The Holocaust Museum had to ask people to stop catching Pokémon in the museum), Ozuna was a little worried motorists might start pulling over on the side of the highway to catch one or, worse, hunting for them while driving. Here's what she posted on Facebook Monday, which has since been shared more than 65,000 times.
By morning, TxDOT changed its mind: Yes, in fact, it does want to do a campaign about not Pokémon-Go-ing and Driving, Ozuma announced on Facebook, slyly adding, "Shhh...my bosses don't really know I'm doing this yet, so there isn't a budget." People went nuts over it, again. Ozuna invited Facebookers to create graphics or videos to spread the message — the perfect opportunity to expand TxDOT's campaign against distracted driving, she told us yesterday.
Ozuna said that, although they joked in the post that #WeShouldntHaveToTellYouThis, in many ways, they feel like they do, given that there were 482 deaths due to distracted driving or cell phone use in 2014 and 463 in 2015.
"Our main goal here is to prevent people from deciding to do anything other than focusing on driving," Ozuna said. "The risk is too high: You could kill yourself or an innocent person just because you're trying to send a text — or catch a Pokémon."
See below for users' videos or memes encouraging people to resist playing Ash while they drive. And seriously, read the comments: In one, TxDOT responds to Facebook commenters praising the organization's social media campaign with a meme of actress Sally Field winning an Oscar Award in 1985, saying, "YOU LIKE ME! YOU REALLY LIKE ME!"
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And to think that a government agency that does road construction could have this much fun with this many fans.