Understanding the use of traffic lights is one of the basics that every driver and pedestrian should know. But aside from learning that the lights signal when to stop, pause, and drive ahead, have you ever wondered why out of seven flashing colors in rainbow, traffic lights use green, yellow, and red? I mean, why not violet, blue or orange?
To feed your curiosity, we have made a rundown of interesting facts about traffic lights.
The history of traffic lights
Going centuries back, there had been various attempts made to come up with the best possible solution to control the traffic. In 1868, the first-ever gas-powered traffic light, which only housed colors green and red, was installed in London. There’s a policeman in charge of the traffic light as it was manually operated.
After that, the first electric traffic lights were introduced and were posted at Cleveland, Ohio in 1914. Unlike the previous one, this electric traffic lights come with a warning buzzer, which indicates that light was about to change. However, in a bustling and noisy street, a warning buzzer was not enough to notify the drivers inside the vehicle, causing numerous accidents in the area. That’s why in 1920, a police officer in Detroit named William Potts, added the yellow signal to visually warn the drivers.
Garett Morgan then came into the scene and invented an automated traffic light. He patented it in 1923, which was then granted by the U.S. Patent Office on the same year, and was adapted in different countries.
In the Philippines, the first traffic light was installed in Plaza Lacson located at Santa Cruz, Manila in 1938.
Anatomy of the three-colored traffic lights
The reason why red was chosen to represent the stop signal is that it has always been associated with the word ‘danger’. Another reason was that red has the longest wavelength, so it can be visible in greater distance compared to other colors.
If you happen to be a driver who likes to beat the red light, well, I’m telling you that it’s not cool. The yellow sign is designed and included in the stop light for a reason. It simply serves as a caution for you to wait, and not to accelerate.
On the side note, did you know that signal lamps were used originally in railroads? In fact, color white was once used for the ‘go’ sign, and color green for the caution. However, white lights caused some problems because train conductors could not see it all the time, especially during the day. Adding to this tricky situation is the tint that causes the red light to appear white, creating confusion to the operators, which leads to mishaps.
To avoid dangerous situations, officials decided to get rid of white light, and replaced it with green as go signal. Green was chosen as it can be easily distinguished from the other two. Viola! That’s how we get the three-colored signal lights that we use in traffic right now.
So, whenever you’re in the car, you should realize that you’re a really bad driver when you think that all the colors in the traffic light means go. Dude, even pre-school students know the differences of these three. So the next time you ignore the purpose of stop lights, might as well consider entering driving school again. It’s not enough that we know its meaning, the most important thing is to follow them.