June 27, 2003 08:53 AM

Since the film “2 Fast 2 Furious” opened on June 6, there has been a national increase in fatalities linked to illegal street-racing, New York’s Daily News reports.

The hit film, starring Paul Walker as a former police office who infiltrates street-racing gangs in Miami, rang up $50.4 million in ticket sales in its first three days of release. But in California, two deaths have been linked to the film, including a 15-year-old boy run down by a 13-year-old driver, the Daily News reports.

In Georgia, a 17-year-old girl on the way to see the film was killed when the car she was riding in crashed during a race. In many areas, police reportedly have stepped up patrols around movie theaters showing the film.

Universal Studios, which released the movie, said in a statement that it was unfair to link the film with racing deaths and would “confuse cause and effect.”

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 135 people died in accidents related to street racing in 2001, the year the current film’s predecessor “The Fast and the Furious” was released, according to the Daily News. That number, the newspaper reports, was nearly twice the number killed in similar incidents the year prior.

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