Defensive Driving

The First Traffic Light Anniversary

red light old

Hard to believe but it has been 101 years since the first electric traffic light was used in the U.S. Installed at the corner of 105th and Euclid in Cleveland, Ohio, these first lights only used red and green so drivers had to be quick on the brakes. Engineers installed a pair of manually operated green lights and red lights facing each side of a four-way intersection.  Some people don’t understand the rules of a four way stop but its goal was really to relieve the police of the dangerous duty of standing in the street directing traffic. They could sit in a booth next to the intersection instead of standing dangerously in the middle of it.

policeman booth

 Gas traffic lights were actually introduced in London in 1869 outside the House of Parliament, but were abandoned because they had a tendency to explode, once badly injuring a policeman.

Need more traffic light trivia? The first three color traffic light was built in Detroit in 1920 and the first “Walk/Don’t Walk” traffic lights were installed in New York City in 1952.

So let’s give credit where credit is due. Lester Wire, a former detective in Salt Lake City, is the innovator responsible for this revolutionary idea in 1912. It wasn’t long before they were springing up all over the states. Early models used bells to signal the changing of red to green to alert drivers of the need to stop soon. This was later replaced with the yellow light we all know and love.

Today we use traffic signals, signs and markers to help provide for the orderly movement of traffic. Drivers must obey these signals except when an officer is directing traffic. You must obey a traffic officer at all times even if he or she is telling you to do something which is ordinarily considered against the law.

So we at give pause and tribute to the often hated, frequently cursed and seemingly always red, traffic signal. Now quit looking at your phone and drive, it turned green half a second ago and you are just sitting there!

For more history on the traffic light, please go to

red light bunch

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