It might be a good idea to keep your hands off Pokémon Go while driving. A new study from Purdue University suggests Pokémon Go may be causing an increase in traffic accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
In the paper “Death by Pokémon Go,” which was published online last week, Purdue University researchers Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell allege that a “disproportionate increase” in “vehicular crashes,” “personal injuries,” and “fatalities” all resulted nearby locations labeled as PokéStops in-game during Pokémon Go’s first 148 days. The study’s authors used the game’s Gyms as a control, as players can’t necessarily visit Gyms from their cars, and then compared crashes and fatalities at intersections near PokéStops in comparison to Gyms.
Studying police accident reports in Indiana’s Tippecanoe County from March 1, 2015 to Nov. 30, 2016 revealed that drivers playing Pokémon Go ultimately did cause an “increase in vehicular crashes, injuries, and fatalities” near PokéStops, leading to an estimated $5.2 million to $25.5 million in damages in the county alone. Two people died from car accidents and 31 people were injured in total during the period studied.
“Specifically, 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 PokéStops… is 134 across the county over the 148 days that followed the introduction of the game,” the authors write. “Thus, the increase in crashes attributable to the introduction of Pokémon Go accounts for 47% of the increase in the total number of county-wide crashes.”
On a national level, the study’s authors argue that the game most likely cost $2 to $7.3 billion in damages during its first 148 days out in the open. And while the game’s deaths, injuries, and sheer destruction may sound alarming, the study’s authors warn that readers shouldn’t be quick to implement new policies on smartphone usage or Pokémon Go bans. Besides, Niantic has already added warnings in the game regarding playing while driving.
“The effect of, if any, bans on the usage of mobile phones (including texting) while driving appears to be short-lived or limited to specific subsets of drivers,” the authors warn.