Tests of Toyota vehicles by the US transportation department have revealed that many accidents blamed on sudden acceleration were actually caused by drivers mistakenly pressing the accelerator instead of the brake.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that "dozens" of data recorders were tested as part of a broad federal investigation into Toyota's recalls, placing blame on driver error rather than vehicle malfunction.
"The early results suggest that some drivers who said their Toyotas and Lexuses surged out of control were mistakenly flooring the accelerator when they intended to jam on the brakes," the report said.
Yet the findings in the report "don't exonerate the car maker from two known issues blamed for sudden acceleration in its vehicles: "sticky" accelerator pedals that do not return to idle and floor mats that can trap accelerators to the floor".
The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) included a sampling of "reports in which a driver of a Toyota vehicle said the brakes were depressed but failed to stop the car from accelerating and ultimately crashing".
The transportation department, however, "found that throttles were wide open and brakes not engaged on Toyotas involved in accidents blamed on sudden acceleration".
Toyota has recalled around 10 million vehicles worldwide since late last year, mostly due to acceleration problems.
The company is looking to improve its recall process following heavy criticism of the way it handled safety issues in the US, that have been blamed for more than 80 deaths.
Akio Toyoda, the Toyota president, apologised in June to shareholders for the recall crisis, saying he thought he might have to resign when he was hauled before a US congressional hearingin February.