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New Study Blames Driver Obsession with Pokemon Go on Increased Vehicle Damages & Deaths

Posted by Suzie Ford on Nov 27, 2017  | Comments

New Study Blames Driver Obsession with Pokemon Go on Increased Vehicle Damages & Deaths - MMORPG.com

In a new abstract published on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) site, a pair of Purdue University researchers have examined police accident reports in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. Their studies reveal a huge increase in vehicle accidents, injuries and fatalities attributed to drivers playing Pokemon Go while operating their cars.

The study begins with describing the increase in vehicular fatalities over the past few years, on the surface related to the rise in the use of smart phones. However, "[a]ttributing any increase in crashes and fatalities to smartphone usage and app availability is, of course, extraordinarily difficult given that many other factors also changed over the years". 

In this study, we circumvent this difficulty by examining the introduction of a specific app that can be associated with specific geographic locations. The app is the highly popular Pokémon GO virtual reality game. The game was introduced on July 6, 2016. Within one month, worldwide, the game was downloaded more than 100 million times. For our purposes, the virtue of this app is that the stockpile of a user’s “weapons” used to play the game can be replenished in the vicinity of specific well-identified “PokéStops” many of which are located near public thoroughfares. If the game is played while a player is driving and if playing the game while driving increases the likelihood of crashes occurring, locations near PokéStops should experience a disproportionate increase in crashes following introduction of the game.

The study, conducted in Tippecanoe, Indiana, focused on 12,000 police reports for the entire county from March 1, 2015 to November 30, 2016. The interesting note is the "significant increase" in accidents near PokeStops after July 6, 2016. "In the aggregate, these crashes are associated with increases in the dollar amount of vehicular damage, the number of personal injuries and the number o  fatalities."

The results are robust to using points of play, called Gyms, that cannot be used to play the game while driving as a placebo. 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.

If you'd like to see more of the attendant numbers and other statistical and research data, you can head to the SSRN site to download the full 49-page paper or view it online as a PDF.

Image courtesy of Mobile AR News

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Suzie Ford / Suzie is the Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom
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