The list of plaintiffs is growing longer, in a lawsuit against two car manufacturers, amid claims they haven't done enough to prevent cars from being stolen.
Among the litigants, is a Buffalo woman who recently had her car stolen, and wrecked by thieves.
"They need to do something for all of these people whose vehicles were basically sitting ducks," said Danielle Smith, whose Kia was stolen from her driveway nearly three weeks ago, in a crime that took thieves six minutes to commit.
Her car was recovered later after being totaled in an accident where her shock over the ordeal only increased.
"The officers on the scene informed me that the driver of the vehicle and the passenger were both 11 years old," said Smith. "The first thing he said to me was about TikTok and the TikTok challenge."
He was referring to trending posts on social media describing how to steal certain older models of Kias, which require a key to start, and which lack engine immobilizers.
"Your car can be stolen and taken at any time with basically a USB cord and a screwdriver and that's absolutely ridiculous," said Smith.
For the Plaintiffs
Smith is one of two Western New Yorkers thus far who have joined 500 other Kia and Hyundai owners nationwide in a class-action lawsuit.
They are represented by California attorney Jonathan Michaels, who appeared on Monday's Channel 2 Town Hall.
"These cars don't have the engine immobilizers and this technology has been around for 30 years and has been in use by virtually every major car manufacturer since the 1990s. And we have Kia and Hyundai advertising their cars as having world-class technology but not using this very simple device that's been around forever," Michaels said. "What really needs to be happening here is a nationwide recall for all these Kia and Hyundai vehicles to fix the problem these manufacturers created."
Commish Cool To Using Police to Help Get Out The Club
Kia wouldn't comment on this story due to the pending litigation but has said it's been working with local police departments to help distribute steering wheel locks.
However, on Tuesday Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia expressed reservations.
"I spoke with Kia and we will not be participating in handing out the steering locks, or clubs. We're not going to take the responsibility of managing who has Kias, how many they own... the logistics in that are outside the bounds of what I feel is the responsibility of the police department. We strongly believe that should be done by Kia through their own dealerships where motorists who own Kias can go pick them up themselves."
"Someone is going to shatter my window and see a steering wheel lock and I'm still gonna have a shattered window," said Smith. "And that's not fixing the root of the problem."
Gramaglia meanwhile acknowledged Kia thefts in Buffalo are up 200% from last year, and 350% from 2 years ago.
The Real Root of Responsibility
Lost on neither the plaintiffs, the attorney representing them, nor the police, however, is that those who bear the most responsibility in all of this, and who should perhaps be held the most accountable, are the thieves who steal the cars.
The issue is receiving more attention locally after a recent car wreck on the Rt. 198 ramp from the Kensington Expressway in which four teenagers were killed while speeding in a stolen Kia.
Meanwhile, with her car totaled, Smith got to choose a new one. She chose a Kia, explaining that she was in a rollover vehicle a few years ago, and escaped her previous Kia without a scratch.
"Plus, the car I have now does have an engine immobilizer and additional safety my previous cars did not have, so I feel a little bit physically and mentally safer in it," Smith said.