Traffic Signals from the past were totally different from the Modern Times

We love them when they turn Green, we hate to see them turn red and when it turns orange it’s one of the most dramatic and intense moments for any rider. Most of the Drama and action happens here at ‘Traffic Signal’. But Traffic Signal is more than just an Indicator. Ever wondered how and when the Signal was invented?

A traffic light is a device that is designed to control the flow of traffic by using three colored lights. These lights are mainly green, yellow, and red. In 1860s London, the first traffic control device had arms that extended out to command drivers on how to react at an intersection .The first four way three color traffic light did not come until December 1920 in Detroit.



traffic light

1869, London Manual traffic control device introduced. It is abandoned after the reported injury and possibly death of a policeman, who was injured in a gas explosion

The world’s first electric traffic signal was put into place on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 105th Street in Cleveland, Ohio in 1914.


in 1868, the 1st traffic lights were installed outside the British Houses of Parliament, by the railway engineer, J. P. Knight



The first traffic control device is installed at the intersection of George and Bridge Streets in Parliament Square, London, Greater London, United Kingdom

Traffic problems are since Ancient Times

The true origins of traffic control are unknown to us but historical evidence has proven that traffic problems started when highways came into existence. Man has always had problems with streets filled to the breaking point with travelers. Some of the first strategies for traffic control were not a device but regulations made by governments. One of the earliest examples was in Rome. During the days of Julius Caesar the streets of Rome were so clogged with chariots the government made certain areas off limits to all vehicles except those belonging to people who were public officials and high-ranking citizens.


Crow Nest from the City of Detroit

In 1912, a traffic control device was placed on top a tower in Paris at the Rue Montmartre and Grande Boulevard. This tower signal was manned by a police woman and she operated a revolving four-sided metal box on top of a glass showcase where the word “Stop” was painted in red and the word “Go” painted in white. The traffic tower was featured in The Rider and Driver Magazine and soon the United States started to develop their own traffic control towers. The tower was the first innovation that used the three-colored traffic signal and appeared first in the City of Detroit.

A traffic control crow’s nest on Detroit’s West Grand Blvd, with the General Motors Building in the background

Evolution of Computerized Traffic signals

The traffic light underwent many evolutions from a manually operated arm extending outwards in 1860s London to being controlled by a timer in a tower at an intersection. The control of traffic lights made a big turn with the rise of computers in America in the 1950s. Thanks to computers, the changing of lights made Crosby’s flow even quicker thanks to computerized detection. A pressure plate was placed at intersections so once a car was on the plate computers would know that a car was waiting at the red light. Some of this detection included knowing the number of waiting cars against the red light and the length of time waited by the first vehicle at the red.


This is how Computerized Traffic signal works

A traffic signal is typically controlled by a controller inside a cabinet mounted on a concrete pad. Some electro-mechanical controllers are still in use (New York City still had 4,800 as of 1998, though the number is lower now due to the prevalence of the signal controller boxes). However, modern traffic controllers are solid state. The cabinet typically contains a power panel, to distribute electrical power in the cabinet; a detector interface panel, to connect to loop detectors and other detectors; detector amplifiers; the controller itself; a conflict monitor unit; flash transfer relays; a police panel, to allow the police to disable the signal; and other components

Modern Time LED Signal


Red and green LED traffic signals

Marshalite traffic signal from Australia


Marshalite traffic signal. Formerly fitted in various intersections in Melbourne, Australia, indicating how much time remained before a signal change

Signals from the Streets of India 😉


It is sad when strict rules are imposed on us which are for our own safety. Follow Traffic rules and life on streets will be smoother and safe.

ALSO READ; 13 weird historical facts you wouldn’t believe actually happened

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