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That's the number of U.S. traffic deaths in the first three months of this year, up 13.5 percent from the first quarter of last year.

U.S. traffic deaths are up — way up. In the first three months of this year, 7,630 people died in automobile collisions in the United States, a 13.5 percent increase from the first quarter of last year.

That stat comes from a new report [PDF] from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If these projections hold up for the year, it will mark the "second largest year-to-year quarterly increase in fatalities since NHTSA began recording traffic fatalities."

There a couple of plausible theories for what's behind the sudden increase. Our friends over at Streetsblog note that distracted driving could be a big part of the reason, as could this year's mild winter. They write:

NHTSA says severe weather keeps people off the roads — though one might theorize that it also causes more crashes. In any event, the growth in fatalities far outpaced the growth in driving during this period. Vehicle miles traveled rose just 1.4 percent over the same time last year.

Photo credit: Baloncici /Shutterstock

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