The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) now believes that upward of 34 deaths may be connected to the runaway Toyotas that have been recalled in the last few weeks.
Federal regulators are seeing a marked increase in the number of complaints of fatal accidents linked to the sudden acceleration of Toyotas. NHTSA posted documents on its Web site saying it has received 1,000 new complaints about the recalled Prius.
Since January 27, NHTSA has collected 13 more death reports, and 10 injuries resulting from crashes in the US since 2005. Without confirmation, that would bring to 34 the number of deaths since 2000 related to Toyota’s problems of sudden acceleration.
21 of the deaths occurred between 2000 and 2009.
The Los Angeles Times analyzed the reports and finds that all but one of the deaths reported to NHTSA in recent weeks, actually occurred before 2010. One even went back to 1988, a sudden acceleration by a Camry that crashed into a wall. Nearly all of the acceleration problems reported, occurred in vehicles made since the 2002 model year.
NHTSA says these are allegations and have not been investigated. Altogether, the total increase of 13 deaths have been reported since the end of January when Toyota recalled millions of cars and stopped the sales of eight models in the US.
The latest Toyota recall was February 9, for the 2010 Prius and 2010 Lexus HS 250h to fix brake problems. Before that, Prius had received 124 complaints from consumers concerning the Prius, including four accidents and two injuries.
"It is normal for NHTSA to receive an increase in consumer complaints after a recall is announced and the public learns of a safety defect," said Olivia Alair, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety in Washington, tells the Times he believes the fatality reports will grow.
"We are going to go over 100 without a doubt," Ditlow said. "The only question is what is the true number. So many fatalities don't get attributed to sudden acceleration, especially as you go further back in time before people were paying attention to Toyota."
And the Times reports that many of the fatalities involved vehicles that have not been included in any recalls such as a 2005 Highlander, a Scion tC, and a Lexus GS.
So far, 500,000 Toyotas have reportedly had their sticky accelerator repaired. Whether that will be the fix is not certain, even by Toyota.
The automaker has hired engineers to try and replicate the acceleration by toying with the electronics. Many believe the sticky accelerator problem is actually an electronics problem and not a problem with an ill-formed pedal or floor mats trapping the accelerator.
Meanwhile in the US, expect production to stop at a Toyota assembly plant in Kentucky for four days reports ConsumerAffairs.com and at a plant in Texas that makes pickups for 10 days this spring.
One of the committees that will hold hearings on Toyota February 24, believes that is more deaths than all other manufacturers combined.
Toyota has turned over nearly 4,000 pages of records sought by Congress, reports the Detroit News and NHTSA reports it has used its statutory authority to obtain documents from Toyota to determine if the automaker issued recalls in a timely manner. #