TIME Transportation

How Daylight Saving Time Can Be Dangerous

Beware traffic accidents

When you’re enjoying your extra hour in bed Sunday morning, spare a thought for what that 60 minutes might cost.

While some dislike the seasonal shifts of Daylight Saving Time (DST) for the minor inconvenience to their sleep cycles and busy schedules, there’s a more serious side to the scheme: the loss of an hour of afternoon sunlight when it ends—as it does this weekend—may increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.

“Darkness kills and sunlight saves lives,” said University of Washington Law Professor Steve Calandrillo, who has studied the effectiveness of different DST policies. “The question is ‘when do you want sunlight?'”

For Calandrillo, who advocates for DST to be implemented throughout the year, the answer is simple: more people are active during the evening, including kids, and the additional sunlight that DST provides helps provide drivers with the visibility necessary to see pedestrians. “At 5 pm virtually everyone in society is awake,” he said. “There are far more people asleep at 7 in the morning than at 7 in the evening.”

In addition to leading to poor visibility in darkness, some experts say the requirement for people to abruptly adapt to a time change overnight may lead to dangerous driving. “Even though it’s dark, you’re still behaving like it’s light,” said Lawrence University economist David Gerard, of the first weeks after a time change. People may drive faster, he said, and pedestrians may be less attentive.

Advocates of perpetual DST have some statistics on their side. Adding an hour of sunlight in the evening year-round would save the lives of more than 170 pedestrians annually, according to a 2004 study in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The lives of nearly 200 vehicle occupants would also theoretically be saved by the change.

But despite this data, some child advocacy groups such as the National PTA have argued for more sunlight in the morning hours when children will be traveling to school. In 2005, the group opposed bringing DST forward into March from April. “People who take their kids to school in the morning, they kind of like Daylight Saving Time,” said Gerard. “They can deal with [darkness] at the end of the day, but in the morning it’s tough getting going.”

Both advocates and opponents of DST can agree, however, that better light equals greater safety — which is why some child safety advocates say that communities need to focus on providing better artificial street lighting, regardless of whether it’s used in the morning or evening. “The more visible kids are,” said Margaux Mennesson, a spokesperson for the group Safe Routes to School,”the safer they are.”

TIME Transportation

Crews Respond to Rising Smoke at Wichita Airport

(WICHITA, Kan.) — Emergency crews were headed to Wichita’s Mid-Continent Airport after huge plumes of black smoke were seen rising into the sky.

Wichita-area broadcasters posted photos and video of the billowing smoke at the airport shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday. Officials with the airport, city and the Federal Aviation Administration did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

TIME Transportation

Judge Denies Request for Restraining Order Against Uber in Las Vegas

The ride-sharing service launched in the gambling hub and other parts of Nevada on Friday, but has faced opposition from state authorities

Popular but controversial ride-sharing app Uber received a minor breakthrough in Nevada on Wednesday when a Clark County judge ruled that the company would be able to continue operating in the Las Vegas area.

The state’s Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto had requested a temporary restraining order on Uber that would prevent its vehicles from picking up passengers in the U.S. gambling hub, but this was denied by District Court Judge Douglas Herndon, reports the Reno Gazette-Journal.

But the service is not yet legal in Nevada, and the denial of the restraining order is only a short-term reprieve.

Temporary restraining orders have been granted by authorities in Carson City and Washoe County, with further hearings scheduled for Nov. 6 and Nov. 12 respectively. However, Uber spokesperson Eva Behrend told the Gazette-Journal that the ride-sharing service is currently active in Reno, Carson City, Sparks and the Las Vegas area. The company is also attempting to drum up support through an online petition that has so far received over 15,000 signatures.

Uber, which currently operates in more than 100 cities across 45 countries, launched its app in Nevada on Friday but immediately encountered opposition from state authorities.

MONEY

America’s Cheapest Airline Looks to Make Flights Even Cheaper

Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines

Lower fuel costs helped Spirit Airlines' stock soar this week, and may even mean cheaper flights for travelers. Just don't expect Spirit's fees to disappear anytime soon, or ever.

A sizable chunk of travelers hate Spirit Airlines and its cramped-seat, a la carte, fee-crazed business model. In a new MONEY poll, voters prefer the option of flying with snakes on a plane over flying on a Spirit plane. Yet investors sure are loving the company’s third quarter results, which were made public on Wednesday. Spirit’s adjusted net income for the quarter is up 28% year-over-year, while total operating revenue was up 14%. The results bumped the price of Spirit stock up more than 7% on Wednesday, and Morgan Stanley just named Spirit its top growth airline pick for investors.

What’s particularly interesting is that Spirit’s performance and its plans for expansion are likely to benefit non-investors as well. The airline’s sales pitch to travelers is based almost exclusively on the low prices of its “Bare Fare” flights, and analysts see the stars aligning that will allow Spirit to cut base fares even lower. It’s possible that this turn of events could even help out travelers who would never fly with Spirit Airlines—because other carriers may feel forced to scale back fares, or at least slow the pace of fare hikes, in order to compete with Spirit’s cheaper flights.

Only three weeks ago, Spirit stock dipped significantly because of fears that higher company costs—including tax payments and the hiring and training of more pilots—would be headwinds getting in the way of higher profit margins. Yet a Motley Fool post pointed out this week:

Looking ahead to Q4 and 2015, these cost headwinds are likely to turn into tailwinds due to 1) lower jet fuel prices; 2) faster growth; and 3) a shift toward larger, more efficient aircraft.

Airlines typically spend about 30% of their revenue on fuel. So when gas prices drop like they have been lately, it’s a huge deal for the airline industry. For the most part, airlines will simply pocket the fuel-cost savings rather than pass any of it along to travelers in the form of cheaper flight prices.

But there’s reason to believe that Spirit Airlines is different. After all, the airline’s main (only?) selling point is that the base price of flights is cheap, so it will lower fares to attract more customers whenever a price cut can be justified. In addition to lower fuel costs, Spirit is expanding rapidly (28 new routes added between August 2014 and April 2015), and has been getting more productivity out of planes and employees. All of which helps the company lower costs—and enables it to make its product more attractive to customers by lowering prices.

In a conference call with investors yesterday, Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza said that’s essentially what the airline plans on doing. “The customers we seek to attract overwhelmingly ranked total price as the most important variable when choosing an airline,” Baldanza said. As Spirit manages to keep the costs of fuel and other expenses low, “that’s a great thing for our model, and that means even lower fares for customers and a good thing for investors.”

And who knows? Spirit’s expansion and low-fare strategy may very well compel the larger airlines to compete more on flight prices as well. Now that fuel prices are shrinking and airlines are enjoying record-high profits, it certainly wouldn’t kill them to do so.

TIME Transportation

14 Hurt in Indiana Amtrak Crash With Semitrailer

Amtrak-Semi Collision
A semi-truck hauling cement lies in two pieces after an Amtrak train struck it about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, near Reynolds, Ind. John Terhune—Journal & Courier/AP

REYNOLDS, Ind. (AP) — An Amtrak train traveling from Indianapolis to Chicago collided Tuesday morning with a semi-truck in its path along northwestern Indiana rail tracks, injuring at 14 people aboard the train, police said.

White County Sheriff Pat Shafer said 14 people complaining of pain were taken to local hospitals after the collision. The truck driver was not among the injured, he said.

Shafer said the collision occurred about 8:20 a.m. when the northbound train struck a semi-truck that had crossed onto rail tracks running adjacent to U.S. 421. He said the train split the truck in half but its driver was not injured. He said it’s unclear why the truck was on the rural tracks about 25 miles north of Lafayette.

“The collision ripped the truck in half,” Shafer told The Associated Press.

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said none of the passengers and crew injured in Tuesday morning’s collision involving the Hoosier State line suffered serious or life-threatening injuries.

Magliari said the collision occurred shortly after the train left Lafayette, where it had made it second stop to pick up passengers after leaving Indianapolis. He said the train was carrying 56 passengers and three crew members when it collided with the semi-truck.

Magliari said it’s unclear why the truck’s driver apparently disregarded train crossing signs at the marked public train crossing along a White County road that intersects with U.S. 421.

Shafer said the train’s uninjured passengers were taken from the scene on buses.

The Journal & Courier reported the collision left two large pieces of the truck on either side of the tracks at the impact scene about two miles north of the White County town of Reynolds.

TIME Transportation

Bike Deaths Spiked 16%, Study Finds

168831304
Rear view of triathletes cycling on street Hero Images—Getty Images

More than a quarter of bikers 16 and older who were killed in 2012 in motor-vehicle crashes had been drinking

The number of bicyclists killed in motor-vehicle crashes jumped up 16% between 2010 and 2012, after many years of decline.

A study released Monday by the Governors Highway Safety Association suggests that recent growth in the popularity of biking has contributed to the rising death toll, though the findings do not offer conclusive data.

“To the extent encouragement of bicycling is successful, exposure and fatalities are likely to continue to increase,” the study says.

In 2012, the most recent year in which figures are provided, 722 bikers were killed in motor-vehicle crashes, up from 621 in 2010. The figure is still down from 1975, when the data was first compiled and 1,003 people were killed in motor-vehicle crashes.

The majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were adults over the age of 20, a dramatic shift from 1975 when the majority of bikers killed in motor-vehicle crashes were younger than 20, and adults comprised only 21%.

The study also found that the lack of helmets was a “major contributing factor” in fatalities. More than two-thirds of fatally injured bikers were not wearing helmets, though it’s not clear what portion of riders generally wear helmets.

One figure has remained relatively constant since at least 1982: roughly a quarter of bikers over age 16 who were killed in 2012 had been drinking.

“Despite the association of biking with healthy lifestyles and environmental benefits, a surprisingly large number of fatally injured bicyclists have blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08% or higher,” the study said.

TIME Transportation

Gas Prices Tumble to 4-Year Low

The average price at the pump is currently $3.08 a gallon, the lowest it's been since Dec. 2010

The average price of gas at pumps across the country have dropped to a near four-year low of $3.08 a gallon, according to a recent survey.

The price has dropped by 29 cents since last year and represents the lowest average cost of gas since Dec. 17, 2010, according to the Lundberg Survey released Sunday. Gas prices have been steadily falling in recent months and are expected to continue to decline amid increasing oil production in the U.S. and abroad.

“The crude oil price crash has been passed through by refiners,” Trilby Lundberg, president of Lundberg Survey, told Bloomberg News. “Retailers will probably be pressed to pass through at the pump a few more pennies of price-cutting sometime soon.”

The cheapest prices could be found in Memphis, Tenn., where gas was going for an average of $2.73 a gallon, according to Lundberg. San Francisco has the most expensive gas, at an average of $3.45 a gallon.

The Lundberg Survey tracks prices at some 2,500 gas stations across the lower 48 states.

TIME Transportation

Riding the NYC Subway Used to Be Fun—Then It Became a ‘Small Death’

New York's First Subway
The opening of the first subway in New York, Oct. 27, 1904. PhotoQuest / Getty Images

Oct. 27, 1904: The New York City subway opens

Long before New Yorkers started taking their pants off to liven things up on the subway, the ride was a novelty even with everyone fully-clothed.

On this day 110 years ago — Oct. 27, 1904 — 150,000 people rode the subway when it opened to the public for the first time, regarding the new form of public transit more as a circus act than as part of the drudgery of daily life. The first subway line, which ran from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway, opened to “the tooting of whistles and the firing of salutes,” according to the New York Times’ report of the day, which noted the awe of those waiting in line for their turn to ride in the tunnels:

The general public would not be admitted until 7 o’clock, and its curiosity was vastly whetted all the afternoon by the unfamiliar appearance of crowds emerging from the earth.

Of this sight New York seemed never to tire, and no matter how often it was seen there was always the shock of the unaccustomed about it. All the afternoon the crowds hung around the curious-looking little stations, waiting for heads and shoulders to appear at their feet and grow into bodies. Much as the Subway has been talked about, New York was not prepared for this scene and did not seem able to grow used to it.

Ultimately, they did manage to grow used to it, and a modern level of malaise quickly took the place of curiosity and celebration. By 1932, when TIME reported on a proposal to unify the three different subway systems then operating independently, it referred to what this would mean for the “subway sardines” who read newspapers over their fellow passengers’ shoulders on the “humid, jam-packed” subway cars.

While the New York City subway was not the first rapid transit system to be built (London, Paris, and Berlin — as well as Chicago and Boston — had already developed the capacity to shuttle commuters like sardines) it made life both simpler and more annoying for the 3.25 million people who, by 1948, would twice daily “descend into the maelstrom of the subways with the haunted resignation of lemmings,” according to TIME, “there to die the small death of the rush hour.”

If there was still some circus-like curiosity to be found on the trains, the 1948 piece snarked, it was that “the subway rider is a sullen example of the incredible compressibility of the human frame.”

And if nothing else, subways had always been cheap. Per TIME: “They offered the longest uninterrupted ride in the world (if anyone could stand it) for a nickel — 22.65 miles from the remote reaches of The Bronx to even remoter reaches of Brooklyn.” That was, until later that year. If there was anything worse than being packed together like sweaty sardines, it was having to pay twice as much for the privilege, TIME concluded. But in the summer of 1948, it was announced, “New Yorkers would have to pay a dime to ride their dirty old subways.”

Read TIME’s 1948 take on the subway system, here in the archives: The Nickel’s Last Ride

MONEY Airlines

What You Really Need to Know About When to Buy Flights

shape of airplane over calendar
Amanda Rohde—Getty Images

Wait a second, now Sunday is the cheapest day to book airline tickets? Forgive us for being skeptical of this (and every previous) study naming one or another day of the week as the best for buying flights.

This week, the Airline Reporting Corporation (ARC) released a study analyzing roughly 130 million airline tickets booked in the U.S. from January 2013 to July 2014, with the hope of shedding some light on when prices are highest and lowest. Over the years, plenty of these kinds of studies have made the rounds, but the current report differs from the pack in a couple of key ways. It shows:

1) Flight prices are cheaper when booked further in advance. In the past, ARC data has indicated that the lowest domestic flight prices were for tickets purchased 42 days before departure, while other studies have advised travelers to book 49 days in advance for the cheapest fares. The new ARC study shows that, on average, booking 57 days out yields the best prices. What’s more, researchers found that average ticket prices were fairly flat during the window of time 50 to 100 days before departure. In other words, the best bet is to book 50 to 100 days beforehand: Tickets purchased during that period were $85 cheaper than the overall average for all domestic flight prices ($495.55).

2) Weekends are cheaper booking days than weekdays. This is the truly surprising takeaway from the study. According to ARC data, the average price of a domestic flight purchased on a Sunday was $432, and it was slightly higher on Saturday, at $437. For a long time, the consensus advice was that the lowest prices were to be found on flights booked on Tuesdays or Wednesdays (when airlines tend to roll out new flight sales), yet the new study shows the average paid on Tuesday was $497.

The smartest travelers seem to be those who booked flights on a Sunday 50 to 100 days before departure: They paid $110 less for their tickets compared to the average.

High Fares, Record Profits

Why is it that Saturday and Sunday seemingly have replaced Tuesday and Wednesday as the cheapest days for booking? The current mentality of the airline industry—which is less competitive and more profitable than it’s been in years—offers some explanation. As Scott McCartney of the Wall Street Journal noted regarding the shift to weekends: “Airline executives come into work Monday looking to raise fares, not discount them with sales to fill seats.”

Earlier this week, for instance, the country’s largest domestic carriers hiked airfares, a move that would seem to be not only unnecessary but downright greedy considering that fuel prices are plummeting. Given strong demand for air travel and American travelers’ apparent willingness to pay increasingly high prices for flights, airline executives are no longer worried about filling planes with passengers. They’ve moved on to worrying about surpassing their (already record high) profits, and they’re raising fares at every opportunity, for the same reason they’ve relentlessly been adding fees: Because they can.

In any event, the fact that airfares are rising would seem to give travelers even more reason to take notice of studies by the likes of ARC and adopt new booking routines, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. The problem with all of these studies is that they’re generalized and are based on averages from the past. The takeaways they offer may, in fact, not help you save on money your specific flight needs in the future.

Take holiday travel, for instance, when passengers are truly most in need of money-saving advice because prices tend to be so high. In the quest for cheap Thanksgiving airfare, the guidelines mentioned above don’t really apply. Several booking sites point to data indicating that the lowest prices for flights over Thanksgiving weekend are likely to be found two to four weeks before departure—that is, unless you absolutely need to fly on the peak-peak days of the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Flights on those days should be purchased far in advance, ideally several months beforehand. In other words, booking a Thanksgiving weekend flight 50 to 100 days ahead of time is probably a bad strategy, no matter what day of the week you’re searching for flights.

What’s more, all “when to buy” advice is based on past performance, as a recent Quartz post on Thanksgiving travel advice painstakingly made clear.

The Trouble With Simple Advice

The WSJ‘s McCartney pointed out that airlines are more inclined lately to discount flights booked on weekends because that’s when leisure travelers are likely to be casually noodling around online and may be enticed to make an impulsive flight purchase if the price is right. The vast majority of business travel, meanwhile, is booked on weekdays, and business travelers are less sensitive to pricing because the flights are deemed more essential. At the same time, however, airlines still do regularly introduce fresh flight sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to boost seat purchases on routes that aren’t filling up.

What all of these strategies have in common is that the airlines are reacting to traveler behavior and are lowering or raising prices to maximize revenues. If and when travelers change their behavior again—say, if a critical mass of business travelers suddenly starts booking flights on Sunday rather than Monday—the airlines will tweak their pricing tactics accordingly. All of which is a roundabout way of pointing out that there are far too many complications for simple advice like “book on Sunday” or “book on Tuesday” to be valid across the board. (We’re only talking domestic flights, mind you; booking advice for international flight is more complicated still.)

Probably the only solid time-tested guideline for finding inexpensive flights is this: Booking too early is generally bad, but booking too late is likely worse. The average domestic flight purchased 225 to 300 days before departure cost $500 to $550, per the ARC study, while the average for a ticket on the day of departure was around $650.

How do you find the sweet spot in the middle, when prices are lowest? It’s complicated, dependent on a range of factors including the destination, season, and day of the week you’re traveling; whether there’s a convention or major event where you’re going; and even larger forces like the state of the economy and yep, gas prices. Kayak and Hopper are among the flight search tools that use historical pricing data to try to predict whether fares on a given route will rise or fall, but again, past performance is no guarantee of future results—especially not in recent years, when airline executives have regularly rejiggered their pricing tactics, generally sending fares up, up, and up.

Despite the dizzying amount of tech at traveler’s fingertips, the question of when to book remains largely unanswerable. Yes, it’s wise to hunt during that window 50 to 100 days in advance, and sure, try to remember to poke around for flights especially over the weekends. But be on the lookout on Tuesdays and Wednesday too, because that’s when sales pop up. Consult historical pricing data and airfare price predicting tools, just don’t expect to pay the same bargain-basement fare you got a decade or even one year ago. Pay attention to airfare sale-tracking services like airfarewatchdog, but bear in mind the best deals are often for fluky routes and days and may not work for your travel needs. Perhaps wisest of all, use an airfare tracking service like that of Yapta, which will alert you if and when a flight on your route and dates has reached your desired price threshold. Just try to be realistic with the kind of fare you can expect nowadays.

TIME Saving & Spending

The Secret to Getting a Ridiculously Cheap Thanksgiving Flight

Aerial view of airplane
Stephan Zirwes—Brand X/Getty Images

Every travel agency is saying something different, but there are some tips that aren't up for debate

For years, travel search engines have scoured through their dense databases to determine the best day to book your Thanksgiving flights. This year, like every year, there’s a lot of mixed messages on what to do if you’ve procrastinated on booking tickets. Here’s what the big players are advising for cheap domestic U.S. air tickets:

  • Kayak: Book in early November, about two to four weeks before Thanksgiving.
  • Skyscanner: Two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.
  • Orbitz: This Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday. If not then, then before Nov. 18.
  • Cheapair: It depends on way too many things.

So what’s the takeaway? It’s better to be safe and book flights now, but you if you’re a risk taker, you can wait until the beginning of November to book your flights. But try not to wait until the week of Thanksgiving. It’s also important to weigh the risks of an unexpected fare hike in light of what your benefits of waiting actually are. These hyped “savings” are usually only about 5 to 10% less than the average fare, which amounts to $15 to $30 if your ticket costs $300.

In fact, since airline fares are notoriously difficult to understand, often the better question to ask is what not to do when you’re booking Thanksgiving flights.

Here are a few tips that travel search engines all agree on:

Don’t book a departure flight on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (Nov. 26), or a return flight on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (Nov. 30).

Airfares increase as flights get fuller, and the Wednesday and Sunday flanking the Thanksgiving holiday are when the most people are traveling. A simple airfare search shows just how much more expensive it is to book travel on one of these days. In some cases, fares are up to twice as high.

If you have to book for Wednesday or Sunday, then book your tickets as early as possible.

If you’re locked into a Wednesday departure flight, aim for a Friday or Tuesday return flight, which is around 25% cheaper than returning on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, according to an analysis by Cheapair.

Booking a return flight on Sunday results in the most dramatic airfare spike, and there’s not really much you can do to save money other than to book your departure flight on Thanksgiving Day. But the tradeoff of sacrificing a chunk of your holiday is a discount of only about 10%, so it may make more sense to pick a different day—even if it’s Wednesday. In general, having a Sunday return flight means you’re stuck with a sky-high ticket price.

Consider booking a departure flight or return flight on Thanksgiving Day—or both.

If you depart and return on Thanksgiving Day, your fare may be up to 30% cheaper than the average price, according to Kayak. And even if you only depart (and not return) on Thanksgiving, those savings are particularly meaningful when applied to longer, more expensive flights. For example, flying the JFK-LAX route departing on Thanksgiving instead of the day before can save you nearly $100.

Don’t book flights in groups.

If you’re booking as a family and there are only a few flights left in the lowest fare category, it’s possible the airline will bump the entire party up to the next fare category, according to Cheapair. That doesn’t mean you can’t travel as a family, though: you just might have to book each person’s ticket individually.

Check other smaller airports nearby.

There’s often regional and even international airports near the ORDs, JFKs and LAXs of major U.S. cities. If you’re in Chicago, for example, consider Chicago Midway Airport instead of O’Hare; if you’re in Los Angeles, consider Long Beach Airport instead of LAX. Both are cheaper airports than their neighboring giants, according to Cheapflights.com, which ranked the nation’s 101 most affordable airports.

Check smaller airlines.

The five biggest U.S. airlines—American, United, Delta, Southwest and JetBlue—all increased their base fares slightly despite lower fuel prices and a worldwide fear of Ebola. While the effect on consumers is not yet clear, it’s also worth checking out smaller airlines like Spirit, Frontier and Virgin.

Read next: The Old Advice on When to Buy Flights Is Wrong (And So Is the New Advice)

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