‘Death by Pokémon GO’ Study Finds Popular Game Has Caused Deaths and Millions in Damages

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After reports of accidents involving Pokemon GO players began to emerge, the company behind the game was quick to release guidance saying that catching Pokemon on the app and driving don’t mix. Some chose to ignore the advice, putting people at risk in an effort to “catch ‘em all.” One report provides insight into how much damage players actually caused.

A working paper out of Purdue University, titled “Death by Pokemon GO,” shows how the misuse of the mobile app-based game lead to millions of dollars in damage, and that’s just in a single county in Indiana.

The two researchers documented “a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of locations, called PokeStops, where users can play the game while driving.”

“The results are robust to using points of play, called Gyms, that cannot be used to play the game while driving as a placebo,” said the paper’s abstract.

“We estimate the total incremental county-wide cost of users playing Pokemon GO while driving, including the value of the two incremental human lives lost, to be in the range of $5.2 million to $25.5 million over only the 148 days following the introduction of the game,” said the researchers.

“Extrapolation of these estimates to nation-wide levels yields a total ranging from $2 to $7.3 billion for the same period.”

Mara Faccio and John McConnell, the researchers involved in the paper, examined around 12,000 accident reports in the Indiana county that were submitted between March 1, 2015, and November 30, 2016. Pokemon GO’s US launch date was July 6, 2016.

“A difference-in-differences analysis that controls for a variety of possible confounding factors indicates that the increase in the number of crashes at locations in the proximity of PokeStops that can be attributed to the introduction of Pokemon GO is 134 across the county over the 148 days that followed the introduction of the game,” the paper states.

“This compares to a county-wide increase of 286 crashes during the same period. This, the increase in crashes attributable to the introduction of Pokemon GO accounts for 47% of the increase of the total number of county-wide crashes.”

As reported by Fox News, in developing the cost estimates, the researchers examined vehicular damages as well as the costs associated with personal injuries, including loss of income. Two fatalities were also included in the total estimated damages.