A google doodle with a Utah link

Whether you’re sitting at a red light or passing through on green, the traffic signal is one invention that revolutionized the world. And because of that, Google has taken to honor the anniversary of the first installation with a “doodle”.

August 5, 2015's Google Doodle

August 5, 2015’s Google Doodle

On August 5, 1914, the first traffic light was installed in Cleveland, Ohio, on the corner of 59th and Euclid. With 20,000 cars being sold per month in 1914, and horse-drawn wagons, street cars, and carts still in play, city streets in America were woefully congested, and a need arose for traffic management. Police used to stand in the middle of intersections and wave their arms to control traffic, and just before the turn of the century, England tried a gas-lit stoplight, but they had a tendency to explode.

But what does that have to do with Utah?

One of the solutions to the traffic management problem came when Lester Wire — a Salt Lake City policeman — created a traffic light out of a hand-made wooden box that had red and green lights whose wires were attached to light wires above. Right in the Beehive State, a solution was born. 

This replica of Lester Wire's first traffic light greets visitors to the UDOT Traffic Operations Center.

This replica of Lester Wire’s first traffic light greets visitors to the UDOT Traffic Operations Center.

We’ve come a long way since 1914, and UDOT is proud of what our employees at the Traffic Operations Center have done to create a state-of-the-art traffic management system. Instead of mechanical lights and wooden boxes, we use sophisticated computers that gather traffic and weather data to manage 60% of the 1,927 traffic lights statewide. We use that information to give you the best data, sent right to your smart phone, and we also have one of the few in-house DOT weather rooms, staffed with two full-time meteorologists and 8 weather professionals.

Next time you’re sitting at a red light or passing through on a green light, you can thank a fellow Utahn for coming up with a traffic solution. Thank you, Google, for giving us a chance to walk down memory lane!