You shouldn't Pokemon Go and drive. That's perhaps more obvious now than during the heyday of Pokemon Go, when I saw plenty of people around Silicon Valley awkwardly flicking Pokeballs on smartphones mounted to their dashboards—while driving, of course. You do what you gotta do to catch the harder-to-find creatures, even though that puts your safety, and the safety of your fellow drivers, at risk.
But how much risk?
According to a working paper from two researchers at Purdue University, cleverly titled "Death by Pokémon GO," misuse of the mobile game caused millions of dollars in damages in just one Indiana county the researchers tracked.
"…we document 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 results are robust to using points of play, called Gyms, that cannot be used to play the game while driving as a placebo," the paper's abstract reads.
"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."
Mara Faccio and John McConnell looked at approximately 12,000 accident reports in the county between March 1, 2015 and November 30, 2016. (Pokemon Go launched in the U.S. on July 6, 2016.)
"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 that can be attributed to the introduction of Pokémon GO is 134 across the county over the 148 days that followed the introduction of the game," the paper reads.
"This compares to a county-wide increase of 286 crashes during the same period. 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."
Pokemon Go-related crashes in the county accounted for nearly $500,000 in vehicular damages and 31 personal injuries, which the researchers looked at for both monetary claims and estimated losses of lifetime income. Additionally, Pokemon Go was likely a contributing factor to two fatalities, which contributed to a majority of the total estimated damages.
"Regardless of whether that number is included, the incremental cost of users playing Pokémon GO while driving is significant," the paper reads.
Pokemon Go developer Niantic updated the game in November of 2016 to prevent players from checking into PokeStops at driving speeds—unless, of course, you told the game that you were merely a passenger and not a driver.