I think the Science take on this is noteworthy in that it didn't mention the extrapolation, but only
The gaming-related accidents, which increased by 26.5% near Pokéstops over the first 5 months following the game's release, cost the county up to $25.5 million in damages, including the loss of two lives,
And New Scientist solicited another academic's opinion, who said:
“The statistical analyses they performed appear to be sound, correctly applied and actually statistically significant,” says Brandon Schoettle at the University of Michigan.
However, he is sceptical about how applicable the findings are for a wider geography or population. “I believe these results for Tippecanoe county, Indiana, are accurate and probably reliable. But I am not so sure that this county is very representative of the rest of the country,” he says. For example, the county is mostly rural with a major urban area and a major university that has many young, inexperienced drivers. “To claim to be able to estimate larger financial effects for the country is not necessarily supported by the data they analysed,” says Schoettle.
The only thing (nearly) certain is that the amount of press coverage this paper received is going to result in more papers on the topic. As an aside, before this study was puplished one economist argued on this blog that Pokemon Go should be subsidised, because it has positive externalities in fighting crime and obesity. I guess now they'll have to argue/decide on the balance. Aside to the aside, the effectiveness of AVGs (active video games) in reducing obesity isn't very clear so far ...although some physicians have argued that Pokemon Go is different enough to have more potential in this respect.
Coming back to the study in question here, it's a good thing they didn't extrapolate to worldwide deaths, because in a commentary on two other US deaths by Pokemon Go, we find that
From a legal standpoint, the use of a mobile phone for any purpose, including the use of applications, is illegal in the UK and the majority of Western European countries including France, Germany, Spain and Italy. In Tucson, Arizona, from where this case reports comes, there is a restriction on text messaging whilst driving, but no specific restriction on the use of smartphone games. Therefore, it might not be considered illegal to use an app whilst driving even it has been shown to affect concentration.
... but that's less reassuring prevention-wise given that some Pokemon Go accidents involved drivers swerving to avoid pedestrians who were playing the game.
It turns out however that there was one brief report (in a JAMA journal) on nationwide US incidents, to the extent that Twitter and the news are representative:
Thirty-three percent (95%CI, 31%-34%) of tweets indicated
that a driver, passenger, or pedestrian was distracted
by Pokémon GO, suggesting there were 113 993 (95% CI,
107 084-117 447) total incidences reported on Twitter in just
10 days. In contrast, safety messages were less common (13%;
95% CI, 12%-16%). The remainder of postings (54%) were hypothetical,
unclear, or unrelated (Figure).
Eighteen percent (95% CI, 17%-19%) of tweets indicated a
person was playing and driving (“omg I’m catching Pokémon
and driving”) and 11% (95% CI, 10%-11%) indicated a passenger
was playing (“just made sis drive me around to find Pokémon”).
Four percent (95%, CI, 3%-4%) indicated a pedestrian
was distracted (“almost got hit by a car playing Pokémon GO”).
There were 14 unique crashes—1 player drove his car into
a tree—attributed to Pokémon GO in news reports during the
This was for the July 10-20, 2016 period. Another aside: 110,000 Twitter incidents became 110,000 road accidents when the Daily Mail reported on this study.
Of course extrapolating from that to other time periods would be problematic, and wasn't done by the authors. However, it seems safe to assume this period was during the peak Pokem GO, so if we use this study to extrapolate an upper bound for the number of Pokemon crashes in the US, we get 1.4/day x 148 (the number of days from the Indiana study) = 207 crashes.
In contrast, the extrapolation based on the Indiana study was an
"the increase in crashes attributable to the introduction of Pokémon GO is 145,632 with an associated increase in the number of injuries of 29,370 [...] over the period of July 6, 2016, through November 30, 2016" (nationwide). So this extrapolation is two or three orders of magnitude higher than I extrapolated from the JAMA study, depending which class of crashes we consider; perhaps fender-benders without any bodily injury were completely non-newsworthy. Of course, the tough question in this comparison is how well reported by the press were Pokemon crashes in that time period. Were they really underreported by a factor of 100? During a time when Pokemon GO was "hot" in the news?
Perhaps we could use the UK for information/extrapolation, which apparently had tallied such Pokemon incidents nationwide "Robberies, thefts, assaults and driving offences were among 290 incidents recorded across England and Wales throughout July ." Since the US population is about 5 times larger, that would give 1,450 incidents per month... or about 7,250 incidents in ~150 days, again as an upper bound (given that the game waned in popularity after launch). But this latter estimate would include much more than car crashes. (And I know I've underestimated this by 15% or so for the sake of a quick calculation, because the UK is more than England and Wales, so a more correct population factor would have been 5.76, giving an estimate of 8,363 US incidents. But at this level of ballpark estimates, it doesn't matter too much.)