Economists call it Death by Pokémon GO.
It’s a damning new academic paper from Purdue University. It found that in just one small U.S. county — Tippecanoe County, Indiana — people playing the game while driving caused an estimated $5.2 million to $25.5 million in damages, including two deaths, in just under 150 days.
After scrutinizing 12,000 police reports, researchers report car crashes, damages and injuries rose sharply in areas near Pokéstops, where users played the game while driving.
The number of accidents was then weighed against Pokémon gyms, where users cannot play the game while driving. Destruction near the roadside Pokéstops beat the gyms out by a long shot.
In the past, Pokémon GO’s developers actually attempted to make the game unplayable at certain speeds. However, a quick workaround allows players in moving cars to say they’re a passenger, rather than the driver, and continue flinging Pokéballs at Rattatas while they’re flying down the road at 50 mph in a two-ton steel behemoth.
The cost of the 134 extra crashes that researchers attributed to Pokémon GO was only around $500,000 — until factoring in the loss of human life. Because two of the accidents resulted in fatalities, the cost of those damages skyrockets.
The researchers then extrapolated their results to the whole country. They estimate the game could have been responsible for 256 deaths, 29,370 injuries and anywhere from $2 to $7.3 billion in damages nationwide during that same five-month period.
“I always play Pokémon GO while I drive,” Maggie Garvey, 28, tells us. “How do you think I incubate eggs and get extra Pokéballs?”
Garvey admits she finds the new study troubling, and in the future promises to only play while she’s stopped … or moving slowly.