The traffic light was such a good, necessary, idea that it was invented before cars and used to control the movement of pedestrians and horse-drawn vehicles. The first automatic, electric traffic light was invented and in use in the 1920s. Traffic lights borrowed their concept from railroad signals, originally using two colors; a third was added later. The intent of the signal colors was quite clear:
- Green meant "Go"
- Yellow meant "Caution"
- Red meant "Stop"
- Green means "Go"
- Yellow means "Go Faster"
- Red means "Keep Going"
The problem is simple. Selfishness and self-interest often trumps safety. Different groups regularly poll drivers about their automobile operating habits. The answers reveal some interesting items:
- Many drivers routinely witness other drivers running red lights
- A significant number of drivers admit to running red lights themselves
- The most frequent reasons for running red lights were because the driver was in a hurry, followed by drivers not noticing the light
- Most drivers believe that traffic light violations are rarely punished
- A majority of drivers believe that the consequences of running a light are minor
Increasingly, towns and cities have turned to technology to help with the chronic problem. Traffic light cameras, though very expensive, are an effective way to reduce traffic light violations and intersection collisions. The cameras are triggered when an auto enters an intersection on a red light. It takes a photo of the vehicle's license plate and traffic tickets are sent to the owner. However, because of their expense, cameras can only be used on a limited basis.
If you're on the road, make the decision that improves traffic flow, increases safety and reduces insurance costs…remember that red means "stop."