What is 'Kia challenge'? Viral social media trend linked to horrific NY car crash that killed 4 teens

Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said that the teens may have been participating in an Internet challenge that encourages people to break into Kia cars

What is 'Kia challenge'? Viral social media trend linked to horrific NY car crash that killed 4 teens
A lawsuit alleges that Kias built between 2011 and 2021 lack anti-theft parts (Andres Iglesias Rodriguez/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, NEW YORK: Four teenagers have died in a car crash that police say may have been related to TikTok's 'Kia Challenge.' As reported by AP, Buffalo police said six teens were in the Kia that crashed around 6.30 am Monday, Oct 24. The car was reported stolen on the evening of Sunday, Oct 23.

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According to ABC7, police reported that all five occupants were ejected from the car. Four of them who were killed were between 14 and 17 years old. The 16-year-old driver was treated at a hospital and later released, while the fifth passenger was hospitalized for intensive care.

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The driver received citations for unauthorized use of a vehicle and criminal possession of the stolen property. According to spokeswoman Kait Munro, the Erie County district attorney's office is investigating the collision and anticipates additional charges. It was unclear if the driver had an attorney who could speak on his behalf. The teens may have been participating in a Kia TikTok challenge which encourages people to use cell phone chargers to break into Kia cars, Buffalo Police Chief Joseph Gramaglia told reporters Monday.

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What is 'Kia Challenge'?

According to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, the story is the same in Chicago. The trend encourages teens to steal a car off the road by breaking it open, removing the steering wheel column, and hotwiring the vehicle with a USB cable, similar to the cord used to charge a phone. As CNBC reported, more than one-third of all car thefts in St Petersburg and Florida have been linked to the Kia challenge by TikTok, according to police. According to Los Angeles police, the viral trend has led to an 85 per cent increase in car thefts of Hyundais and Kias compared to last year.

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The thieves upload videos of themselves stealing and driving the cars to TikTok, where they have more than 33 million views. In a statement, TikTok said it "does not condone this behavior, which violates our policies, and will be removed if found on our platform."

The thieves are mostly young teenagers, some of whom are not even old enough to legally drive. The stolen cars are often used for joyrides or other crimes before being left on the side of the road.

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According to AP, a class-action lawsuit was filed in September in Orange County, California, alleging that Kias manufactured between 2011 and 2021 and Hyundais manufactured between 2015 and 2021 do not have anti-theft parts known as immobilizers, making the vehicles easier to steal than other models. The lawsuit seeks financial compensation from the automakers as well as a nationwide recall.

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