In 2015, there were an estimated 32,166 fatal motor vehicle crashes that occurred throughout the United States. One year later, the “Pokemon Go” app was launched — and according to one study, the popular game caused car accident rates to spike in at least one part of the country.
Software developers are more in demand than ever, creating applications like operating systems, software, web functionality tools, and — of course — video games. Although Pokemon trading cards, television shows, and video games had existed for years, the brand was struggling to remain relevant. But the Pokemon franchise came back with a roaring vengeance last year with their smartphone game that prompted people to get moving and catch all of the pocket monsters they could.
While there were some reports that Pokemon Go had a positive impact on fitness levels for players, the news isn’t all good. A yet-to-be-published-or-peer-reviewed study out of Purdue University found that within the first few months of the game’s launch, car accident rates increased dramatically in one Indiana county.
Entitled “Death By Pokemon,” the study analyzed 12,000 accident-related police reports in Tippecanoe County. Data shows that there was a disproportionate increase in crashes, as well as subsequent injuries and fatalities, near PokeStops and Gyms — real world locations that play a significant role in the game. All told, Pokemon Go was responsible for at least 134 accidents in that county during the game’s first 148 on the market. Those accidents resulted in $498,567 in damages to vehicles, 31 injuries, and two fatalities.
One of the study’s authors, Purdue economist Mara Faccio, told Glixel she initially came up with the idea to delve into this topic when a friend told Faccio they played Pokemon Go behind the wheel. While the study covers only one small portion of Indiana, the authors of the study caution that the nationwide popularity of the game could be responsible for an uptick in accidents all across the United States.
To the game creators’ credit, Pokemon Go does try to dissuade players from driving during gameplay. The game itself actually enforces a speed limit that doesn’t allow players to interact with the game’s virtual world if they’re moving at too fast a pace. Although only about 1% of civil cases actually reach trial in federal courts today, it’s understandable that the creators would want to absolve themselves from any possible responsibility for these accidents.
The allure of Pokemon Go has caused many a driver to make a stupid decision while out on the road, and it hasn’t stopped with car accidents. One Oklahoma City man had his car stolen when he pulled over to catch Geodude spawn. When he left his keys in the car, a thief snatched the vehicle and drove it down the highway. At least he didn’t try to catch the monster while still operating the vehicle.
The game has posed so many dangers that the Chinese government actually banned it due to its potential threat to life, property, and even national security. However, the game’s ban has now been lifted in China and is set to launch there sometime in 2018.
While the Pokemon Go craze has since died out a bit here in the U.S., it’s possible it could have another resurgence. Experts hope that, if that does happen, players will be smart enough to “catch ’em all” on foot, rather than by car.