WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Transportation Department is investigating reports of 52 deaths resulting from unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles. Of those, 41 involved cars equipped with electronic throttle control systems, a department spokeswoman said today.
The new numbers, which represent more than a 50 percent increase from the 34 deaths reported by the government a few weeks ago, were given to the Senate Commerce Committee last night in advance of today's hearing, Transportation spokeswoman Olivia Alair said in an e-mail today.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood probably will cite the figures at the hearing, the third in Congress in the past week on Toyota's safety defects, she said.
Regulators confirmed that five of the deaths are attributable to a loss of speed control in the Toyota vehicles. The department is investigating the remainder, Alair said.
The latest figures, current as of the end of February, also involve reports of 38 injuries in Toyota vehicles from unintended acceleration, Alair said.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is part of Transportation, has seen a spike in consumer complaints about Toyota since the automaker's January recall of 2.3 million vehicles for sticky pedals.
Sixty percent of the complaints have come since the January recall, Alair said.
Toyota has maintained that unintended acceleration in its vehicles has stemmed from floor mat entrapment or sticky gas pedals but not electronic interference in the vehicle itself.