Stop, Look and Listen: The World’s First Traffic Lights

Traffic LightTraffic control, in its plain and simple sense, is supervising the movement of people, loads, and vehicles to ensure safety and efficiency throughout. The job of enforcers you see in the middle of the streets today is more convenient than that of many years ago, thanks to electronically-powered traffic lights.

The green, yellow, and red lights are set to switch on and off in timed intervals, depending on the regular traffic of a certain place. This technology plays a key role in the traffic control in Spokane and other populated cities in the world. But do you know where and when traffic lights were first operated?

Approximately 4,700 miles from Washington State is where the capital of England – London – sits. It’s the place where the first traffic lights were installed in 1868. From there, a couple of Americans gave their contributions in developing what would be one of the most significant, yet overlooked, inventions of all time.

The Prototype Signal

In 1910, a man from Chicago named Earnest Sirrine was believed to have developed the first automatic traffic control system. His non-illuminated mechanism used the words proceed and stop. Two years later came the electric traffic light of a Salt Lake City native, Lester Wire, who used the green and red lights.

Use of Automatic Mechanism

Not long after, in 1913, James Hoge somehow combined the two early systems. He used the electric-powered lights to illuminate the words move and stop in a manually controlled traffic light in Cleveland. This system was further developed by William Ghiglieri of San Francisco. From merely being illuminated, he used the green and red lights to signal go and stop. His system can be set to either manual or automatic.

Modern Day System

The inclusion of yellow light in traffic systems came around 1920. Detroit Traffic Police Superintendent William Potts added the caution signal between green and red lights to warn drivers of changes in the signal. Also, he invented a few automatic systems, including the overhanging four-way light system.

After Potts’s system, several manufacturers didn’t do much significant changes from 1940s to the present times. To this day, authorities still improve traffic controlling schemes to meet the needs of motorists.

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