We all should have seen this coming. That cute little yellow guy all the kids love is really a killer. That’s right, a new study from Purdue University says traffic accident reports suggest that Pokémon Go caused a marked increase in vehicular damage, injuries, and even deaths due to people playing the game while driving.
According to ARS Technica, the report, titled “Death by Pokémon Go,” looks at nearly 12,000 accident reports in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, in the months before and after Pokémon Go‘s July 6, 2016 launch. The authors cross-referenced those reports with the locations of “Pokéstops” in the county (where players visit frequently to obtain in-game items) to determine whether the introduction of a Pokéstop correlated with an increase in accident frequency, relative to intersections that didn’t have them.
The data shows that traffic accidents were 26.5 percent greater at intersections within 100 meters of a Pokéstop, compared to those farther away. Across the county, study authors estimate 134 extra accidents occurred near Pokéstops in the 148-days after the game came out, compared to the baseline where those Pokéstops didn’t exist. That adds up to nearly $500,000 in vehicle damage, 31 additional injuries, and two additional deaths, according to extrapolation from accident reports.
To back up the study, the increase in accidents at these locations tracked closely with the reported Daily Active Users for the game worldwide, which peaked in July and fell through the last month in the study, November. The effect is also measurably reduced as you increase the observed distance from a Pokéstop between 50 and 500 meters. Traffic reports from the accidents studied show a disproportionate increase in “distracted driver” as the listed cause.
The authors of this study do admit that extrapolating one county’s results to the entire country is “speculative,” but say the totals suggest more than 145,000 additional crashes, 29,000 additional injuries, and 250 additional deaths could have been caused by playing Pokémon Go while driving in the five-month period following the game’s release.
The games developer recognizes the potential for safety issues apparently. In August, an update to the game warned players in fast-moving vehicles that “You’re going too fast! Pokémon Go should not be played while driving,” and asked them to confirm they were a passenger before continuing.