August 5th is International Traffic Light Day; and yes, there is a day for that too! And keeping that in mind, I wanted to introduce you to 9 wonderful kids books for the occasion. I also talk a bit about the history of the traffic light and share some interesting facts.
If you make more roads, you will have more traffic. – Jan Gehl
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All About the Traffic Light
History and International Traffic Light Day
Drivers driving along Euclid Avenue, in Cleveland, Ohio on August 4th, 1914 had no idea what the next day had in store for them. It was a traffic-stopper, literally!! The first electric traffic light made its debut on Euclid Avenue at 105th Street on the 5th of August, 1914. James Hoge, a Cleveland engineer created this borrowing from the red and light signals used by the railroads at the time (he patented it later). And as this ubiquitous device found a place on busy intersections across America, and gradually around the world, chaos turned to order (well, sort-of, kind-of order at least).
While there are other claims for the first traffic light — including a short-lived gas-powered device in London in 1868, and another handmade device in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1912 — Hoge’s design is widely regarded as the first (patented) traffic light. Which leads us to the reason why August 5th ended up becoming International Traffic Light Day.
Other Interesting Traffic Light Facts
- On 9th December 1868, the world’s first traffic lights (non-electric gas-lit ones though) made their appearance outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Unfortunately, they did not last long as they exploded on the night of 2 January 1869 due to a leak; and unfortunately injured the police constable operating them.
- One of the earliest traffic operators in Paris was a policewoman!! She manned a traffic control device that was placed on top of a tower in Paris at a busy intersection. She operated a revolving four-sided metal box on top of a glass showcase with the words Stop and Go painted on them.[ref]
- The first electric traffic lights were manually operated. A policeman staffed a booth and switched signals manually. This continued until the first automated electric traffic light appeared in my beloved San Francisco in 1917!
- The yellow (or amber) light did not show up on traffic lights until 1920; when the first three-colored, four-sided traffic light appeared at an intersection in Detroit. William Potts came up with this idea; he added that third light as a way to buy time while the policemen operating the lights were switching the signals.
- African-American inventor Garrett Morgan invented a three-position traffic signal and patented it as well (Patent No. 1,475,024[ref] was granted on 20 November 1923)
Additional Cool Traffic Light Facts
- Why red, yellow, and green? Science and psychology both might have their say in this. The human eye sees these colors more easily; and another fun fact, we see red sooner and from longer distances than green. And then psychology: red indicates danger, while green is more calming. Yellow is a cheerful color after all so hopefully it lets drivers handle the waiting/be ready to stop part happily?!
- The traffic light scheme has since made its way to many aspects of our lives: from the soccer field to travel restrictions; in the classroom to ensure behavior and by pediatricians to help develop healthy eating habits; and so much more. Where else have you seen this scheme used? Or where else would you use it? Let me know
- While red at the top, yellow in the center, and green at the bottom is a global standard for traffic lights, the city of Syracuse, NY goes upside-down as far as their only working traffic light. Yes, they have a light with green at the top and red at the bottom. Read more about it over at RoadsideAmerica.
- If you think you have seen it all, then this narrow, really narrow street in Prague is sure to delight you! It has a traffic light, but not for vehicles. This is for people so they don’t literally run into each other in the passage). Check out more details about the street and a few photographs as well over at UnusualPlaces.
- This traffic light is sure to be any driver’s worst nightmare (and not just the student driver’s as Atlas Obscura tags it in this article, don’t you agree?) Read more about it in the linked article.
References and Further Reading
- This Day in History (History.com) and This Day In History (Garrett Morgan)
- Traffic light (Wikipedia)
- A Brief History of the Stoplight (Smithsonian)
- The History and Meaning of Colored Traffic Lights
5 Interesting Kids Books for International Traffic Light Day
Go! Go! Go! Stop!
Title: Go! Go! Go! Stop!
Author/Illustrator: Charise Mericle Harper
Publishers: Knopf Books for Young Readers; Illustrated edition (July 14, 2015)
Genre: Children’s City Life Books (2 – 5 years, and up)
What It Is: So very adorable! Minimalistic yet cute and colorful illustrations accompanied by lively, age-appealing text that is bound to be read many times over.
Red, Stop! Green, Go!: An Interactive Book of Colors
Title: Red, Stop! Green, Go!: An Interactive Book of Colors
Author: P. D. Eastman
Publishers: Random House Books for Young Readers; Ina edition (May 25, 2004)
Genre: Children’s Colors Books (2 – 5 years, and up)
What It Is: An interactive book from the author of ‘Go, Dog, Go!’ featuring the dogs from that classic. I read the original years ago to my kids.
Red light, green light
Title: Red light, green light
Author: Margaret Wise Brown / Illustrator: Leonard Weisgard
Publishers: Scholastic (January 1, 1992)
Genre: Children’s Transportation Books
What It Is: From the author of Goodnight Moon comes this classic picture book where readers take a journey on the road through busy days and quiet nights.
Red Light, Green Light (I Help My Friends)
Title: Red Light, Green Light (I Help My Friends)
Author: Michael Taylor / Illustrator: Srimalie Bassani
Publishers: Ready Readers (August 1, 2017)
Genre: Children’s Transportation Books (4 – 7 years, and up)
What It Is: What do you do when the light turns red? Follow the boy and girl on their adventures to learn about traffic safety using concepts of sight words and retelling.
Garrett Morgan (Historically)
Title: Garrett Morgan (Historically)
Author: Margia Mas / Illustrator: Cesar Gonzalez
Publishers: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 1, 2015)
Genre: Children’s Biographies Books (8 – 13 years, and up)
What It Is: I talked about Garrett Morgan earlier in the post; and readers can learn more about him and his fascinating mind in this book.
And Now, the End of This Post
Dear reader, have you heard of or read any of these books? As always, I welcome comments, suggestions, and recommendations (for this post and future ones, as well as book recos)