Researchers argue Pokemon Go caused a discernable increase in car accidents, injuries, and deaths


What is the deadliest video game in existence? If a scientific whitepaper is to be believed, at least in the case of Tippecanoe County, Indiana, that game is Pokemon Go.

The Purdue University paper, titled Death by Pokemon Go: The The Economic and Human Cost of Using Apps While Driving, documents an increase in vehicle accidents and related injuries, deaths, and damage from nearly 12,000 police accident reports for the county between March 1, 2015, and November 30, 2016. The researchers attempted to reconcile circumstantial correlations – like falling gas prices, the rise in smartphones, university population, and the US economic recovery – to explain the reversal of a 25-year overall decline in vehicular fatalities, specifically noting a spike in accidents and even deaths near designated PokeStops in the months following the launch of the game, even when compared to other Pokemon-related destinations where driving was not possible.

Extrapolating that data to national totals, the paper estimates that drivers distracted by the game led to over 145,000 car accidents, nearly 30,000 injuries, 256 deaths, and between $2.0 to $7.3 billion in damages.

“Using police accident reports for Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and exploiting the introduction of the augmented reality game Pokémon GO as a natural experiment, we document a disproportionate increase in crashes and associated vehicular damage, injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of locations where users can play the game while driving. We estimate the incremental county-wide cost of users playing Pokémon GO while driving to be in the range of $5.2 to $25.5 million over the 148 days following the introduction of the game. Extrapolating these estimates to nation-wide levels yields a total ranging from $2.0 to $7.3 billion.


“In sum, our analyses indicate that the concern by insurers and others that the use of smartphone apps by drivers did contribute to increases in vehicular crashes, injuries, and fatalities is legitimate. In this instance at least, there is an economic dark side to technological advancement.”

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