- A fatal car crash in Buffalo, New York, on October 24 killed four and injured two teenagers.
- The six passengers were in a Kia vehicle that had been reported stolen, according to police.
- Investigators believe the crash was linked to so-called “Kia Challenge” on TikTok.
Police have said that a fatal car crash in Buffalo, New York, involving a stolen Kia car may be linked to TikTok, citing a so-called “Kia challenge” which outlets have reported encourages users to steal Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
Six teenagers were in a car that crashed on Route 33 in Buffalo, New York, on October 24, leading to four deaths and two injuries.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “I know Kias are widely publicized — the ‘Kia challenge,’ as it’s called.”
Reports of a “Kia challenge” emerged in July, when TikTok videos showing car thieves targeting unlocked Kia and Hyundai vehicles and using a USB cord to start the ignition went viral. A series of articles on the challenge appeared in outlets, including Newsweek and the New York Post. However, Insider was unable to verify the videos at the time, and found no evidence that they had sparked a “challenge” or “trend.”
A current search for “Kia Challenge,” or the hashtags #KiaBoys or #KiaBoyz, both of which have over 25 million views, showed many TikTok videos of people claiming to have been victims of the challenge or videos appearing to mock the idea of people stealing Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
Some videos show cars being started with a USB cable but not how someone might rewire the ignition to do so, and Insider was unable to find evidence of a “challenge” being spread on TikTok encouraging the thefts.
Still, various police forces have referenced the so-called challenge.
On August 26, the Los Angeles Police Department tweeted that thefts of Kia and Hyundai vehicles had increased by 7% between 2021 and 2022, and said “the current Tik-Tok Kia/Hyundai social media challenge” was a factor.
—LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) August 26, 2022
Police Sergeant Cody Lance, who investigates auto thefts in St. Petersburg, Florida, previously told the Tampa Bay Times that he has seen an increase in thefts he believed was also down to TikTok.
In September, Cook Country Sheriff Tom Dart told CNBC that his jurisdiction had seen an 800% increase in car thefts. He said, “The viral nature of how this has taken off on social media — it’s accelerated this like we’ve never seen.”
This is not the first time a crash has been linked to the “Kia Challenge.” Two 14-year-old boys were killed and a third was hospitalized after crashing a stolen Hyundai Sonata in Columbus, Ohio, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
“For these kids, it’s a game, it’s a status symbol to see how many they can steal in a day, and they’re using these cars to commit a series of other crimes,” Columbus Police Commander Duane Mabry told NBC4 Columbus. Mabry said the department had seen a 40% increase in Kia and Hyundai thefts this year.
Following the Buffalo crash, a 14-year-old girl who was in the car was hospitalized and the driver, who was 16, was released into the custody of the Buffalo police. He has since been charged with third-degree unauthorized use of a vehicle and fourth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, AP News reported.
A number of purported TikTok challenges have turned out to be fake or vastly over-reported after wreaking havoc both on and off social media. Most famously, unfounded reports of a “slap a teacher” challenge emerged in September 2021, leading to widespread panic and even warnings from police and schools. However, Insider was unable to find any evidence of such a challenge existing or being spread on TikTok.
Representatives for Hyundai, Kia, and the Buffalo Police Department did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider’s Digital Culture team here.