The government has received new complaints that bring to 34 the total number of alleged deaths in Toyota vehicles due to sudden acceleration since 2000, according to government data posted Monday.
The government has received complaints during the past three weeks alleging 13 deaths. The deaths allegedly tied to this problem happened in nine crashes between 2005 and 2010.
Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled 8.5 million vehicles globally during the past four months because of problems with gas pedals, floor mats and brakes, threatening the safety and quality reputation of the world's No. 1 automaker. The government typically receives a surge in complaints following a recall. None has yet been verified.
The new complaints reflect the heightened awareness of the massive recall among the public and underscore a flurry of lawsuits on behalf of drivers alleging deaths and injuries in Toyota crashes. Three congressional hearings are planned on the Toyota recalls.
The database also shows new complaints filed over the 2010 Prius gas-electric hybrid, which was recalled last week to replace braking software.
When the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened its investigation of Prius on Feb. 3, the government had received 124 consumer complaints. Through Feb. 11, the government has received nearly 1,000 new complaints for a total of 1,120 complaints alleging 34 crashes, six injuries and no deaths.
Transportation Department spokeswoman Olivia Alair said in a statement it was "normal for NHTSA to receive an increase in consumer complaints after a recall is announced and the public learns of a safety defect."
Alair said NHTSA takes every complaint seriously and is quickly gathering data on additional complaints "to help guide our examination of sudden acceleration, the Prius braking system, as well as other safety issues."
Toyota officials did not immediately respond to the death allegations.
Meanwhile, Toyota has still not decided whether its president will appear before the U.S. Congress, the automaker said Monday, but it promised to look again into possible electronic problems with its vehicles.