Playing Pokémon Go while driving is incredibly dangerous and may have caused billions of dollars of damages across the United States within the first few months of its release.
A recent paper titled “Death by Pokémon Go“ took a look at car crashes in Tippecanoe County, Indiana after the release of Pokémon Go and found that drivers using the app caused an estimated $5.2 million to $25.5 million in damages in just under 150 days.
The paper, written by Purdue University economists Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell, specifically looked at areas in Tippecanoe County that are designated as PokéStops and Gyms in Pokémon Go, which are locations that players can visit to get free items and battle other players, respectively. While PokéStops can be interacted with instantly, making them easily accessible to drivers, Gym battles take a bit of time to finish, and the paper found a disproportionate amount of crashes, damage, injuries, and even deaths around PokéStops.
Faccio and McConnell examined almost 12,000 police reports from Tippecanoe County, finding that 134 crashes could likely be attributed to Pokémon Go within the first 148 days of its release. During that time, there were 286 more crashes than usual in the county, so nearly 50% of crashes were attributed directly to Pokémon Go (although the number could actually be higher).
“Death by Pokémon Go” took the data gathered from Tippecanoe County and extrapolated it to estimate how much damage was caused across the entirety of the U.S., which amounted to a cost between $2 billion to $7.3 billion from vehicular crashes alone.
After the release of Pokémon Go, a handful of stories about vehicular crashes that were caused by distracted drivers playing the game floated around the internet, including one player who crashed into a school and another who hit a cop car.
Two months after the game came out, developer Niantic added a feature to deter drivers from playing the game while driving a vehicle. If the player was found to be traveling fast enough, the app would prompt them to confirm that they are the passenger and therefore safe to play the game. Unfortunately, drivers could lie and say they were a passenger anyway, so Niantic made Pokémon stop appearing for anyone traveling over 30 mph a few months later. Drivers could still use PokéStops, though.
The damage hasn’t been limited to drivers only; the distracting app even took its toll on pedestrians who weren’t looking where they were going.
Please don’t look at your phone while driving, and make sure you’re not too distracted when walking near cliffs either.
H/T The Verge