Study estimates that Pokémon GO has caused more than 100,000 traffic accidents


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The phenomenon Pokémon GO has almost completely vanished, but the destruction left in its wake could be much greater than anyone would have imagined. Two professors at the University of Perdue have tried to get an idea of ​​the effect of the game on traffic accidents by studying data from an Indiana county. The results do not reflect well Pikachu and his friends.

It's probably unfair to just blame a free mobile game for an increase in traffic accidents, since users who decided to play an immersive augmented reality game while driving are obviously at fault. But the study "Death by Pokémon Go" by Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell is less about finding a fan of the app store, and more about collecting specific data related to the growing number of traffic accidents that are believed to be related to "distracted driving". . "As of 1988, deaths from traffic accidents seemed to be decreasing in the United States quite steadily, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Society Administration (NHTSA), deaths from traffic accidents in the United States. United joined 42,130 in 1988 and dropped to 29,867 in 2011. Then, deaths and total accident numbers began to rise again, when the NHTSA experienced a 7.2 percent increase in deaths in 2014, it called for official action for researchers to study why this happens, the increase has continued, and in 2016, the number of deaths reached 37,461.

The diffusion of smartphones has been identified as the main cause of the increase in accidents traffic in recent years, but with so many possible contributing factors, it is difficult to name a single culprit.The Faccio and McConnell study, which has not yet A peer-reviewed approach takes a novel approach to collecting related statistics by cross-referencing data from traffic accidents in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, and comparing them with "PokéStops" counties. The authors of the article expected to know if there was a significant increase in accidents in areas that are closer to where people try to catch virtual Pokémon while they watch their phones.

The two investigators collected data on county accidents between March 1, 2015, and November 30, 2016. Pokémon GO was launched on July 6, 2016 and accumulated more than 100 million of downloads by the end of that month. Analysis of the data found that accidents increased throughout the county, but the probability of an accident occurring less than 100 meters from a PokéStop was 26.5% higher. Numerous factors such as school interruptions and population fluctuations were taken into account in the researchers' model, and each time, the data showed an increase in accidents with respect to the previous year in places that gained a PokéStop.

In general, the study attributes $ 500,000 in vehicle damage, 31 additional injuries and two additional deaths in Tippecanoe County that appear to be related to Pokemon GO fever . In addition, the authors write that "the magnitude of the discontinuity falls in the months following the introduction of Pokémon GO in a manner consistent with the fall in the number of active players." In other words, as people got tired of the game, traffic accidents decreased. So, although the use of smartphones, in general, could be adding to the problem, the case of the Pokémon study specifically, seems to have some value.

When the numbers are statistically extended to apply to the entire nation, the results become much more insane The researchers explicitly acknowledge that these data are "speculative", but conclude that the "increase in accidents attributable to the introduction of ] Pokémon GO across the country is 145,632 with an badociated increase in the number of injuries of 29,370 and badociated increase in the number of deaths of 256, "in just five months." The economic costs come in a staggering estimate of "$ 2 billion to $ 7.3 billion" over the same period of time

It is up to legislators and other statisticians to determine how seriously this data should be taken, and what should be done about it. The study presents a convincing argument that Pokémon GO had a statistically significant effect on traffic accidents. go the game, its creators have already implemented systems that mostly prevent you from playing while driving these days. But this study could inform the policy to use a phone when behind the wheel.

It also demonstrates a greater need to badyze the negative financial impacts of technology. As of July, Pokémon GO had raised $ 1.2 billion for its distributors. If these figures turn out to be true, it would seem that the game had a negative economic impact, not to mention the cost of human life. Analyzes of the dominant effects of the technology company on the economy tend to focus largely on job creation, and the way in which governments react to technology tends to be guided by employment data. Just look at the city leader's fight to throw away tax money on Amazon to convince Jeff Bezos to build a new headquarters in his city. Even if you can not blame Pokémon for all that damage, it's worth remembering that we're barely scratching the surface to understand the effects that innovation is having on society at this time.

[SSRN via Ars Technica]

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