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In March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles could've been responsible for as many as 52 deaths since the year 2000. Yesterday, the NHTSA revised that figure upward: it now rests at 89.
The revision is linked to a dramatic increase in the number of complaints filed with the NHTSA. As of mid-March, the agency had received 2,600 complaints about sudden acceleration in Toyota models, but in just the past two months, that figure has more than doubled, hitting 6,200. Upon investigation of those complaints, NHTSA staffers have identified 28 new suspicious crashes, bringing the total number of accidents potentially linked to unintended acceleration to 71 -- up from 43 in March.
It's important to note, however, that the increase in complaints isn't tied to an increase in auto accidents. While we're sure that some of the 3,600 new complaints stem from recent incidents, many others could be related to accidents that happened months, if not years ago. No doubt, publicity surrounding Toyota's numerous recalls has made many drivers reconsider their previous accidents. The NHTSA has not yet released a list of incident dates.
It goes without saying that this news comes as a terrible blow to the families of accident victims. It makes the pain of loss that much more pronounced, to know that a mechanical problem might actually be to blame for their tragedy. And for Toyota, it means many long years of litigation and image-mending.
For more information about the ongoing Toyota recall and how your vehicle may or may not fit in, check out the work that Bengt Halvorson, John Voelcker, and others have done by scanning TCC's full list of articles with the "Toyota recall" tag.