Taiwan police take aim at Pokemon gamers driven to distraction

August 11, 2016 5:26 AM EDT

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TAIPEI (Reuters) - The launch of the Pokemon GO game in Taiwan has sparked a sharp rise in traffic violations by commuters using their smartphones to play while driving.

Authorities have issued 1,210 tickets for smartphone use in traffic between last Saturday, when the game was released in Taiwan, and Monday. More than 1,100 of the tickets were dished out to scooter riders.

"The whole country is using their smart phones like crazy playing this internet game," said Yen San-lung, head of law enforcement in the traffic division of Taipei's police department.

Police have warned gamers against playing in traffic, issuing fines of NTD 3,000 ($95) for car drivers, while scooter riders face a NTD 1,000 ($32) ticket, according to media reports.

"When driving, it's easy to be distracted when using your mobile phone and this causes accidents. So the police will enhance efforts to fine drivers who use their mobile phones," Yen said.

Game players use mobile devices to search for virtual Pokemon characters that appear to pop up at places where people are known to gather, including offices, restaurants and museums.

Authorities in Taiwan have urged gamers to resist the urge to play in certain locations, most notably Taiwan's presidential palace and the National Palace Museum.

At the Taipei Zoo, many visitors could be seen using their phones instead of looking at the animals. Many of the enclosures house virtual Pokemon characters along with real creatures.

Chen Ting-ju said her boyfriend kept playing during their visit to the zoo.

"I'm very dissatisfied because from the moment we entered he started to take out his phone and play. Play, play, play non-stop," Chen said.

(Reporting by Fabian Hamacher; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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