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Study links Pokémon Go to traffic accidents

With the rise in smartphone usage, distracted driving is increasingly becoming a problem among drivers in Illinois and across the United States. “Pokémon Go,” the smartphone-based game that launched in July 2016 and became a worldwide phenomenon, has also contributed to the increase in distracted driving accidents, according to a recent study.

Conducted by two Purdue University professors, the study showed how the number of car crashes increased in the days following the release of “Pokémon Go,” especially at intersections near a Pokéstop. After analyzing nearly 12,000 crash reports made in Tippecanoe County, Ind., the researchers found that there were 26.5 percent more accidents in these intersections.

Pokéstops are locations where players must go to retrieve certain in-game items, so it’s not surprising that becoming immersed in the game can lead to accidents near those stops. The authors speculate that nationwide, the game may have caused 145,000 more accidents and 250 more deaths.

While the study has been shared online, it has yet to be peer-reviewed. Though it does not include the accidents that occurred away from Pokéstops, its data does track with the number of daily active users of “Pokémon Go” during that time period.

“Pokémon Go” may be waning in popularity, but Niantic is developing a follow-up game. When games and other distractions lead to car accidents, victims may want to seek compensation. A lawyer could determine how much a claim is worth, even lowering the settlement if evidence of contributory negligence is found. The lawyer may then hire investigators, build up the case and proceed with negotiations, litigating as a last resort.