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History of Roads

History of Traffic Lights

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Traffic Light

Traffic Lights

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By definition traffic control is the supervision of the movement of people, goods, or vehicles to ensure efficiency and safety. For example, in 1935, England established the first 30 MPH speed limit for town and village roads. Rules are one method of controling traffic, however, many inventions are used to support traffic control, for example, in 1994, William Hartman was issued a patent for a method and apparatus for painting highway markings or lines. Perhaps the best known of all inventions related to traffic control are traffic lights.

Traffic Lights

The world's first traffic lights were installed near London's House of Commons (intersection of George and Bridge Streets) in 1868. They were invented by J P Knight.

Among the many early traffic signals or lights created the following are noted:

  • Earnest Sirrine of Chicago, Illinois patented (976,939) perhaps the first automatic street traffic system in 1910. Sirrine's system used the non illuminated words "stop" and "proceed".
  • Lester Wire of Salt Lake City, Utah invented (unpatented) an electric traffic light in 1912 that used red and green lights.
  • James Hoge patented (1,251,666) manually controlled traffic lights in 1913, which were installed in Cleveland, Ohio a year later by the American Traffic Signal Company. Hoge's electric-powered lights used the illuminated words "stop" and "move".
  • William Ghiglieri of San Francisco, California patented (1,224,632) perhaps the first automatic traffic signal using colored lights (red and green) in 1917. Ghiglieri's traffic signal had the option of being either manual or automatic.
  • Around 1920, William Potts a Detroit policeman, invented (unpatented) several automatic electric traffic light systems including an overhanging four-way, red, green, and yellow light system. The first to use a yellow light.
  • Garrett Morgan was issued a patent for an inexpensive to produce manual traffic signal in 1923.

Don't Walk Signs

On February 5, 1952, the first Don't Walk' automatic signs were installed in New York City.
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