Stoplight anniversary highlights just how far traffic safety has come

The humble stoplight recently celebrated its 101st anniversary, creating a prime opportunity to pause and reflect on just how far traffic safety has come over the years – and to look ahead for what changes may still be in store.

On August 5, 1914, the first electric traffic signal was installed in Cleveland, Ohio, according to the History Channel. The original stoplight was operated by hand from a nearby control state and had just two signals: red and green.

Today’s familiar three-color stoplight was not introduced until a few years later. According to streets.mn, a non-profit organization devoted to transportation and land-use issues in Minnesota, the first three-color stoplight was installed in Detroit in 1920. However, in its original form, the yellow signal flashed to indicate a change from red to green – not from green to red as is standard in the traffic lights of today.

Modern technologies focus on communication

Far from those humble beginnings, traffic safety innovations have become increasingly high-tech and specialized over the past century. Some historical highlights along the way include:

  • Safety glass (1924)
  • Windshield wipers (1925)
  • Four-wheel brakes (1950)
  • Seat belts (1950)
  • Anti-lock brakes (1970)
  • Air bags (1974)

Much like the original traffic light, many modern traffic safety innovations aim to eliminate car accidents by facilitating communication among drivers – or, as is increasingly the case, among the vehicles themselves.

Automatic braking is one such example, which was introduced in 2009 to allow vehicles to detect nearby hazards and apply the brakes automatically if the driver fails to do so. Similar technologies are incorporated into vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems, which allow vehicles to communicate directly with one another about their speed, location and direction of travel in order to detect potential collision risks, warn drivers and take measures to prevent a crash when necessary. In the United States, the federal government is in the process of developing regulations that could make such technology standard in the near future.

New weapons in the battle against distracted driving

Features like automatic braking, lane-departure warnings and vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems were developed partially in response to the growing epidemic of distracted driving in the cellphone era. Some automakers have begun offering features that address this issue even more directly by using cameras and computers to monitor drivers for signs of distraction. By tracking drivers’ head and eye movements, the systems can detect when a driver may be distracted and issue a warning to the driver to redirect his or her attention to the road. While this technology is still relatively new and uncommon, only time will tell if it may one day become a standard vehicle safety feature.

Get legal advice after a crash

People who are injured in traffic accidents are encouraged to contact an experienced personal injury to discuss the possibility of pursuing a claim for compensation. Drivers who are distracted, under the influence or otherwise negligent can be held legally and financially liable to anyone who is hurt as a result of their carelessness. Contact Paige J. Donnelly, Ltd., to learn more if you or a member of your family has been hurt in a crash.

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