‘Pokémon Go’ Players May Have Caused Billions in Damages, Economists Say

Blame distracted drivers.
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
November 27, 2017, 5:26pm
Photos via Flickr

Remember when Pokémon Go was a thing? It was a weird time.

People were heading to parks in the hundreds to catch themselves a Snorlax, illegally crossing borders, getting hit by cars, and in some cases, dying.

Also, Pokémon Go players might have caused billions of dollars in damage across the United States.

The game was downloaded and played by millions of people worldwide and was specifically designed for people to play while walking. But because humans are creatures that can’t be trusted with anything, a lot of those people played the game while driving— and you see where this is going, right?

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In a new paper called “Death By Pokémon Go,” Purdue University economists Mara Faccio and John McConnell scrutinized 12,000 detailed police reports of one particular county in the United States—Tippecanoe County, Indiana—for the first 148 days after the game's release. In doing so, the duo found “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 two then weighed this number against the gyms (places that you could fight with your caught Pokémon) you could fight in the game, as it wasn’t possible to take on these stops while driving. The publisher of the game did update it to not allow a player to hit PokéStops while driving but this could be quickly worked around by indicating you were a passenger not the driver.

When looking at this data, Faccio and McConnell found that there were 286 more car crashes than the prior year—134 of these occurring near PokéStops. The costs of these crashes were around $500,000 but, out of these crashes, two resulted in fatalities—which, sadly, increases the cost of damages way up. The economists estimates that the “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.”

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

With that in mind I want you to just think about what the number would be worldwide. Actually, on further thought, it’s probably best not to.

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