TIME Transportation

This Glow-in-the-Dark Spray Could Make Cycling at Night Way Safer

A new safety initiative being tested in the U.K.

Car giant Volvo is turning in a slightly different direction for its next project: cycling safety.

Last week, the automaker and its partners unveiled a reflective spray called LifePaint, which cyclists can spray on their clothes and bicycles to boost safety at night. The spray, which is reflective for up to 10 days, is invisible in daylight but becomes bright white at night when a car shines its lights on a treated surface.

LifePaint, created in partnership with design firm Grey London and Swedish startup Albedo100, is in trials at six cycle shops in London and Kent. If it proves popular with cyclists, Grey London said in a statement, the project will expand domestically and beyond the U.K.

TIME Transportation

4-Year-Old Girl Boards Bus Alone in Late-Night Search for Slushie

The girl was unharmed and reunited with her parents

A 4-year-old girl boarded a Philadelphia bus alone in the early hours of Friday, transportation officials said Sunday, and told passengers she was looking for a slushie.

Surveillance footage showed the girl acting cheerful with her feet dangling off her seats, while confused bus riders looked her way, Reuters reports. The driver pulled over when he noticed the girl, then called his control center and awaited authorities. She was taken to a nearby hospital and reunited with her parents, who said they didn’t realize she had left via a back door.

“I will take you to buy a slushie,” Jaclyn Mager said to her daughter in a television interview. “But promise me next time you’ll wait for me, O.K.?”

[Reuters]

TIME Aviation

Why We May Never Be Certain the Germanwings Crash Was Deliberate

A similar 1999 crash remains shrouded in mystery

As investigators continue to search for clues about the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525, a new theory has emerged: a French prosecutor said on Thursday that the flight’s co-pilot brought the plane down on purpose.

Black box recordings suggest that when the pilot left the cockpit, the co-pilot locked the door and deliberately flew the plane into the mountain, not responding to the pilot’s pounding on the door or, in fact, saying a single word during the descent.

The shocking revelation may remind observers of another crash, when on Oct. 31, 1999, Egyptair Flight 990 went down on its way from New York City to Cairo. When the black box from that flight was retrieved, this, as per TIME’s recounting, was what was heard:

The cockpit door opens, then closes. Silence. After four or five minutes, a calm voice utters three words in Arabic. “Tawakalt ala Allah”: “I put my faith in God,” or “I entrust myself to God.”

It is 1:49 a.m. and 46 sec. on Oct. 31. EgyptAir Flight 990 is cruising uneventfully at 33,000 ft. on its normal heading from New York City northeast across the Atlantic toward Cairo. At that moment, two distinct clicks of a button on the control yoke disconnect the autopilot guiding the plane. Eight seconds later, the control yoke is pushed forward, tipping the tail up, pitching the nose down, and the aircraft tilts into a precipitous but controlled dive. Fourteen seconds later, the aircraft reaches 90% of the speed of sound and zero gravity–weightlessness–as it plummets through the night sky.

The cockpit door opens again. The master alarms start to whoop. A voice demands, “What’s going on?” or “What’s happening?” Then the same voice urges, “Pull with me! Pull with me!” Twenty-seven seconds into the dive, the horizontal elevators on the tail that normally operate in tandem to stabilize the aircraft wrench in opposite directions: the left side pulls to make the plane climb, the right one pushes to keep it in a dive. Gravity and the two powerful Pratt & Whitney engines on the Boeing 767 continue to force the plane down. A second later, a small shield is flicked up over the twin-engine control levers on the central console, and both engines switch off. Four seconds after that, the plane’s speed brakes, panels deployed atop the wings rise into the airstream, disrupting the lift in an effort to slow down the descent. Suddenly, the plane begins to climb.

After an additional 11 sec., the flight-data recorder and cockpit voice recorder stop working; the altitude-reporting transponder quits. Land radar tracks the plane as it climbs 8,000 ft. with a force of gravity 2 1/2 times normal. Then the aircraft stalls, lurches downward, breaks apart and leaves nothing on the radar screen but a cascade of neon debris falling into the sea.

Those bare clicks, murmurs and whines recorded by the plane’s two black boxes, then synchronized with ground-control radar tracks, are all the “facts” investigators have so far to construct a picture of what happened to Flight 990. But do they add up to the terrible possibility that one of the pilots deliberately sent the plane into its death dive, committing an unspeakable act of self-destruction and mass murder?

In that case, despite the recording and other evidence that the pilot did not try to avert the crash, the suicide-by-crash theory still, over 15 years later, remains unproven. The National Transportation Safety Board took the hypothesis seriously from the beginning but, TIME reported, those on the Egyptian side of the investigation denied that it was a possibility.

Responding to those who interpreted the pilot’s actions as a murderous, terroristic act, many in Egypt and its allies saw a cultural presumption in the idea that a prayer in Arabic — which could also be an expression of surprise or concern — could indicate a link to terrorism. And to those who saw it as an act of personal desperation, many Egyptians said that was also an insult, given the extreme shame associated with suicide in their culture.

The pilot’s family rushed to provide evidence that the pilot, Gamil El Batouty, was a happy man with no reason to crash a plane on purpose, and officials questioned whether his recorded prayer would be interpreted in such a sinister fashion if the speaker had been Christian. For months, even as the NTSB stuck by the suicide theory, Egypt continued to press the case for alternate possibilities.

Egyptair Flight 990 and Germanwings Flight 9525 are not exactly the same situation, but they do share a few key elements. In both cases, black box recordings suggest that the person flying the plane caused and/or failed to stop the descent, and in both cases the actual wreckage will be hard to retrieve, meaning that a full review of the plane’s mechanical systems may prove impossible. But in both cases, at least so far, there is also a lack of the kind of evidence that often speaks for suicides after the fact: no note, no explicit evidence of anguish.

The lesson of the Egyptair crash, then, is that the chance is high that Germanwings investigators will never be able to say for sure what happened. The only person who could answer their questions with confidence can no longer do so.

Read next: Why the Black Box Recordings Deepen Germanwings Crash Mystery

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Transportation

Teen Drivers Get Distracted Far More Easily Than Any Parent Dares to Think

Distraction plays a role in four times as many teen driving accidents than previously estimated

Everyone complains about teenage drivers glued to their cellphones while on the road. But a new report and video from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA) shows just how dangerously distracted they are — much more than anyone thought.

The study found in 58 percent of moderate to severe crashes involving teen drivers, distractions played a part. That’s four times the previous official estimates.

In 2013, the most recent year for which there is data, 963,000 teenagers crashed a vehicle, killing 2,865 people and injuring 383,000 more.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says driver distraction caused 14% of all crashes, with 7% of those caused specifically by cellphone usage. But the new AAA study — reviewing more than 6,800 videos from inside cars from August 2007 to July 2013 — finds that the prevalence of distraction is way higher.

It says that at least 12% of teen car crashes involved cellphone usage, 5% higher than the official statistic.

The report additionally found that teenagers using a cellphone did not look at the road for an average 4.1 of the six seconds before a crash. When distracted by cellphones, teenagers failed to brake or steer appropriately, with most rear-end collisions caused by slower reaction times. Some 15% of teen crashes involved a driver inattentively chatting with at least one passenger.

TIME Transportation

This Is Why Distracted Teen Drivers Are Crashing

It's not just cellphones

Americans already know that teenagers do some very alarming things while driving—like changing their clothes and doing homework—but a new study finds that distracted driving is a bigger problem than widely thought, responsible for four times as many car crashes as previous police report-based estimates suggested.

Looking at in-vehicle video footage of roughly 1,700 teen drivers, researchers for AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that in the six seconds leading up to the crash, distraction played a role 58 percent of the time. Previous estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that distraction played a role in only 14 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.

The leading distractions were interactions with other passengers (occurring before 15 percent of crashes), mobile phone use (12 percent of crashes) and looking at something inside the car (10 percent of crashes). Of those final six seconds before a crash, mobile phones took teenagers’ eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 seconds. Additionally, teenagers using their phones before a crash did not brake or steer before the collision, suggesting that cellphones have a serious effect on teen drivers’ reaction times compared to other distractions.

Read next: Here Are All the Very Alarming Things Teenagers Apparently Do While Driving

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

MONEY Airlines

$15 Flights to Europe—and 7 More Ways the Least Trustworthy Airline Has Misled Travelers

Ryanair plane taking off
Ryanair

Ryanair's turnabout this week on cheap transatlantic flights is hardly the only reason travelers might not trust Europe's most infamous high-fee, low-cost airline.

Airlines aren’t exactly renowned as the most honest, upfront, and trustworthy of businesses. Years ago, the industry told travelers that fees for checked baggage were necessary to cover the cost of higher fuel prices. Fuel surcharges were added as well, supposedly for the same reason. Yet even as fuel prices have plummeted, fuel surcharges remain commonplace and baggage fees are pricier and more widespread than ever.

For that matter, travelers have constantly been told that the “debundling” of the airline ticket, in which passengers pay fees a la carte for only the services they want, results in lower prices for strictly the flights themselves. How that concept jibes with the fact that average airfares have soared to all-time highs (over $500) for domestic round trips is rather puzzling.

Among this untrustworthy bunch, European low-fare carrier Ryanair is routinely considered the worst of the pack. Led by brash, headline-grabbing CEO Michael O’Leary—known for calling customers “idiots” for thinking they won’t be hit with fees at the airport, among other things—Ryanair has a long, storied history of bad, misleading behavior.

In the latest incident that turned out to be completely untrue, it was widely reported this week that Ryanair’s board had approved the launch of a series of transatlantic flight routes, with promotional fares from Europe to the U.S. starting for as little as £10 ($15) one way. Within days of the report, however, Ryanair released a statement that completely negated the earlier stories, clarifying that the board “has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so.”

It’s hardly the first time that Ryanair appears to have blatantly misled travelers around the world, likely for purposes including but not limited to generating huge amounts of cheap publicity. Here’s a look at some other sketchy or downright untrue things that Ryanair has claimed over the years.

It’ll sell standing-room-only tickets. In 2012, O’Leary claimed that the airline was close to introducing a standing-room-only section on short-haul flights within Europe. Fares would supposedly start as cheap as £1 ($1.50) for passengers who would stand up rather than require a seat during their travels. The airline later stated that it had no plans for an SRO section on planes.

Seatbelts don’t matter. To make the argument that passengers can fly safely while standing, O’Leary was widely quoted saying, “Seatbelts don’t matter,” and compared the issue to other forms of travel: “You don’t need a seatbelt on the London Underground. You don’t need a seatbelt on trains which are travelling at 120 mph and if they crash you’re all dead.” Also, he noted, “If there ever was a crash on an aircraft, God forbid, a seatbelt won’t save you.” If nothing else, however, pilots and air safety regulators point out that in the event of turbulence passengers are more likely to be injured when not wearing a seatbelt.

It actually flies to Paris. More than a decade ago, a German court ruled that Ryanair must stop claiming that it flies to Dusseldorf when, in fact, the true airport destination is an old military airfield in Weeze, 42 miles away from Dusseldorf. It’s common for low-cost carriers to use secondary airports rather than those nearest to city centers in order to keep costs down, but Ryanair has been dubbed the “ultimate bait-and-switch airline” because its gateway listings are so often misleading. A SkyScanner report about the world’s Most Misleadingly Named Airports focused in particular on popular gateways used by Ryanair including Paris-Vatry (Disney) and Paris (Beauvais), which are, respectively, 93 miles and 55 miles outside of Paris. Despite its billing, the former is also 70 miles from Disneyland Paris.

It’ll charge for in-flight bathrooms. With the hopes of encouraging passengers to use the restroom before boarding planes, Ryanair previously announced plans to charge fees for bathroom breaks on its aircraft, and has also floated the possibility of removing toilets in order to make room for more revenue-generating seats. Understandably, such measures drew an outcry among travelers and regulators, and in retrospect seem like ploys to generate attention.

And in-flight porn. Talk about a marketing stunt to generate attention! Yes, a few years ago O’Leary made headlines by announcing that his latest moneymaking idea would be an app that would charge passengers to watch erotic movies on tablets and smartphones. Gambling and games would be available too, for a charge. “I’m not talking about having it on screens on the back of seats for everyone to see. It would be on handheld devices,” O’Leary said. “Hotels around the world have it, so why wouldn’t we?”

It considered a “fat tax” too. In 2009, Ryanair surveyed 100,000 passengers on the topic of how to save the airline money, and the top vote getter, receiving the support of 30% of those polled, was an extra fee for overweight passengers. Granted, this wasn’t the most serious or scientific survey: Participants weighed in because by doing so they had a chance to win free flights, and the second most popular money-saving scheme among voters was charging money for toilet paper with Michael O’Leary’s face on it. Remarkably, the South Pacific’s Samoa Air beat Ryanair to the punch by becoming the first airline to charge passengers by the pound in 2013.

It actually changed the way it does business. A year ago, not long after the airline was named as the worst customer service brand in all of Europe and described in the report as “aggressive and hostile towards customers,” Ryanair declared that it was instituting a wide range of service improvements and more customer-friendly policies to overhaul its image.

How is that working out? A (UK) Telegraph report in the fall noted that Ryanair has indeed followed through on several customer-friendly changes, including “a new allowance for a second, small carry-on bag, a reduction of the number of clicks required to book on its new website, allocated seating, several family-friendly innovations and more discreet selling of its food and other ancillary services on board.” Still, Ryanair continues to receive around 80,000 complaints per year, and as one Telegraph reporter put it, even after the “changes” have been made, “The in-flight experience was the same and the inflight food is still a rip off.”

TIME Transportation

Uber Cars Outnumber Yellow Cabs on Streets of New York

Taxis New York
Mario Tama—Getty Images Taxis pass Broadway theater billboards in Times Square in New York City.

Statistics from NYC’s taxi regulator reveal an important milestone for the ride-sharing service

Uber cars have overtaken yellow cabs on the streets of New York City.

There are 14,088 registered Uber cars compared with 13,587 yellow taxis, according to new statistics from New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission.

The figures, reported by the AP, reflect the rapid expansion of the ride-sharing service, which was introduced in New York in 2011.

But as the AP notes, the numbers don’t mark the demise of the yellow cab just yet. While there are more registered Uber cars, there are still roughly 15 times as many daily rides in yellow cabs as there are in Uber vehicles.

Uber drivers are likely to own their car and drive less than 40 hours per week, while yellow taxis are generally owned by companies that find drivers for the cars during all hours of the week.

[AP]

TIME Transportation

The Percentage Increase in Traffic Deaths During Spring Break Will Shock You

Most fatalities occur among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state

Spring break can be a time of hedonism for many college students, but it’s also a dangerous one, with the holiday leading to a sharp jump in traffic fatalities. That’s according to a new study published in Economic Inquiry, cited by Science Daily.

“We found that between the last week of February and the first week of April, a significantly greater number of traffic fatalities occurred in spring break hot spots compared to other locations in the same states and at other times of the year,” said researcher Michael T. French.

French and his team looked at traffic fatalities in 14 popular spring break destinations from Florida to California. They discovered that death tolls were 9.1% higher during spring break in these destinations, with a higher fatality incidence among drivers under 25 and those traveling from out-of-state.

During spring break, the authors also noted that there was no increase in traffic fatalities in non-spring break destinations, confirming that the spike is attributable to the holiday period itself.

To reduce traffic fatalities, researchers recommend that destinations offer transportation incentives to persuade students to leave cars behind. Travel vouchers for rideshares, taxis and other programs might go a long way in saving a life this spring break, researchers say.

[Science Daily]

TIME Transportation

This Chart Shows Why New York Might Not Be America’s Hardest Working City

Why that title might belong to San Francisco instead

 

The city that never sleeps isn’t actually working the longest hours.

New York lives up to its reputation of America’s hardest working city only if you count commuting time as work hours, according to a new report from the city’s comptroller. That might be fair considering how New Yorkers endure the nation’s lengthiest commutes: 6 hours and 18 minutes each week on average.

But judging strictly on work hours, the hardest working city is San Francisco, Calif., followed by Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C., which are tied for second.

Check out the full survey here.

TIME Airlines

Lufthansa Cancels Hundreds of Flights as Pilots Strike Begins

Short-haul and long-haul Lufthansa aircrafts stand at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany on March 18, 2015.
Christoph Schmidt—dpa/Corbis Short-haul and long-haul Lufthansa aircrafts stand at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany on March 18, 2015.

The first of two planned strike days starts Wednesday

Lufthansa has canceled about 750 flights—roughly half of its scheduled 1,400—as pilots on Wednesday began the first of two strike days over retirement benefits and the carrier’s cost-cutting tactics.

The German airline is the latest in Europe to clash with its pilots as carriers compete with low-cost competitors, Reuters reports. Norwegian Air Shuttle and Air France-KLM have both faced strikes in recent months, and Lufthansa alone faced 10 last year.

Wednesday’s strike, affecting mostly shorter flights, is the second strike for the airline this year; a second day of striking, affecting longer flights and cargo flights, is planned for Thursday.

There are currently no firm plans to resume talks between the airline and the pilot’s union.

[Reuters]

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