Traffic Control Devices | A History Lesson

As we drive through the many streets, highways and freeways that make up Arizona’s roadways, we will often find ourselves faced with one traffic control device, after another.  The variations of the traffic control equipment on the roadways today – as many of you have already noticed – are immense.

However, these devices don’t go without their fair share of history, nor did they arrive without their fair share of challenges. Many manufactures began developing traffic control devices and signs shortly after the arrival of the first-ever automobile; over 100 years ago.  These devices are on our roadways, not to frustrate us unnecessarily, but rather to insure we meet our destination safely.

Now for Some Interesting Facts

Road Surface Markings – The first road surface marking in history was a center line that was painted in Michigan in 1911.  Road surface markings provide guidance and information to both drivers and pedestrians.  Today road surface markings can be mechanical, non-mechanical or temporary.

Traffic Signals – Manually controlled traffic lights became commonplace, when in 1914, the state of Cleveland hung electric lights across its roadways that lit up the words “stop” and “go”.  The 3-color traffic signals that we commonly use today, however, weren’t installed until 1920 in Detroit.

Stop Signs – With the arrival of 1915, the state of Detroit saw the installation of the very first “stop” sign, which at the time had black lettering written across a white background.  In 1922, the increased use of this signage led to the development of the octagon shape that we are all familiar with.

Road Symbol Signs – We gradually started seeing the installation of road symbol signs within the 1960’s.  These signs commonly depict road conditions, speed limits, U.S. highway route numbers and other travel information for drivers.  As more and road symbol signs were adopted and installed, we saw fewer navigational problems.

Today, we now have more traffic control devices than ever before including; devices that monitor traffic such as traffic cams, solar-powered message boards that tell us how many minutes we can expect to spend on the road before we meet our destination, and road barricades that keep us from going in a direction we shouldn’t.  For more information, please contact Action Barricade.

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