Published: May 26, 2010 1:46 PM EDT
Updated: May 26, 2010 10:47 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) - Unintended acceleration in Toyota vehicles may

have been involved in the deaths of 89 people over the past decade,

upgrading the number of deaths possibly linked to the massive

recalls, the government said Tuesday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that

from 2000 to mid-May, it had received more than 6,200 complaints

involving sudden acceleration in Toyota vehicles. The reports

include 89 deaths and 57 injuries over the same period. Previously,

52 deaths had been suspected of being connected to the problem.

Toyota Motor Corp. has recalled more than 8 million vehicles

worldwide since last fall because of problems with gas pedals,

floor mats and brakes. The Japanese automaker paid a record $16.4

million fine for its slow response to an accelerator pedal recall

and is facing hundreds of state and federal lawsuits.

Toyota said in a statement that it "sympathizes with the

individuals and families involved in any accident involving our

vehicles. We are making an all-out effort to ensure our vehicles

are safe and we remain committed to investigating reported

incidents of unintended acceleration in our vehicles quickly."

The automaker said "many complaints in the NHTSA database, for

any manufacturer, lack sufficient detail that could help identify

the cause of an accident. We will continue to work in close

partnership with law enforcement agencies and federal regulators

with jurisdiction over accident scenes whenever requested."

In the aftermath of the recalls, Congress is considering

upgrading auto safety laws to stiffen potential penalties against

automakers, give the government more powers to demand a recall and

push car companies to meet new safety standards.

Toyota's U.S. sales chief, Jim Lentz, told Congress last week

that dealers have fixed nearly 3.5 million vehicles under the

recall and the company and its dealers have conducted 2,000

inspections of vehicles. Lentz said there was no evidence that

electronics are to blame for the sudden acceleration reports.

NHTSA administrator David Strickland told lawmakers the agency

had spoken to nearly 100 vehicle owners who said they had

unintended acceleration following a recall fix but NHTSA had not

seen pedal entrapment or sticky accelerators in any vehicles that

have been properly repaired.

The government is investigating acceleration problems in Toyotas

and a separate 15-month study by the National Academy of Sciences

is scheduled to begin in July.