Here's one more thing we can file under "first done in Michigan."

Now, I'm going to be honest. I've never wondered about the very first tri-colored traffic light or when and where it was invented. I mostly just wonder why the person in front of me slammed on their brakes at a yellow light when CLEARLY we both could've made it.

But, today I learned that the very first tri-colored traffic light was, in fact, invented in Michigan. Thanks to Duane C. who made a post about this in the Facebook group Abandoned, Old, and Interesting Places in Michigan.

Digging into the history of traffic lights (that's not something I ever expected to type), I learned that the first traffic "light" to be used was in London in the 1860s. But, it wasn't that effective. They were gas-powered using red gas lights to indicate that someone should stop and green gas lights to indicate that it was safe to go.

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However, just one month after the first gas-powered traffic light was installed, a gas leak caused an explosion injuring the police officer who was operating it.

Jump forward to the early 1900s, American cities like Chicago had installed systems with moving arms to indicate "stop" or "go". But, again, it was always limited to the two options.

That's until 1920 when a Detroit man named William Potts, a police officer, designed a tri-colored, four-way traffic light to increase safety. Apparently, red lights were frequently being ignored or run because the number of cars, horses, and the like on the road made it difficult to abruptly stop in a safe manner.

The very first traffic light was installed at Woodward Avenue and Fort Street in Detroit, according to While some were manually operated, these tri-colored traffic lights started popping up all over America and even in Europe, too. And as they say, the rest is history.

Since then, the traffic light has, obviously, been updated a few different times. You can read more about the history of the traffic light at Or, if you're more of a visual person, check out this quick video:


By the way, Michigan is also home to the very first paved road. Read more below:

Of course, you do need to wait for those paved roads to dry before trying to drive on them. Whoops...

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