Researchers Attribute Massive Increase in Traffic Accidents to ‘Pokemon Go’

The wildly popular Pokemon Go mobile application, which is based on a 1990s Nintendo game, has created a global frenzy as players roam the real world looking for cartoon monsters

In a working paper entitled “Death by Pokemon GO,” two Pursue University researchers claim the mobile game phenomenon is responsible for a massive spike in traffic accidents.

Researchers Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell are laying “a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities” at the feet of Niantic’s popular augmented reality monster-collecting app. Their observations, “based on detailed police accident reports for Tippecanoe County, Indiana,” use Pokemon Go as a “natural experiment” and then extrapolate that data to estimate the nationwide scale of the potential effects.

We document a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of locations, called PokéStops, 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.

And by using these local PokeStops in comparison to Gyms, versus the same areas prior to the release of Pokemon GO:

We estimate the total incremental county-wide cost of users playing Pokémon 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. Extrapolation of these estimates to nation-wide levels yields a total ranging from $2 to $7.3 billion for the same period.

It is important to note that this research does not control for a wide variety of other factors. It is, however, an interesting look at a known problem. The attention Pokemon Go received last year is being evaluated, and that is always good news in a world where our laws consistently lag behind the technologies they govern.

Follow Nate Church @Get2Church on Twitter for the latest news in gaming and technology, and snarky opinions on both.


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