Daily Devotional

For Jul 25, 2014 ← Return

Traffic Signals

AN AMAZING FACT:  Until the end of the 19th century, traffic in large cities was mainly uncontrolled chaos. Carriages and wagons dashed about in every direction, and the danger of frequent runaway horses added to the madness. Getting across a busy street could be a life-and-death challenge. In the 1860s, the NYPD formed the famous “Broadway Squad.” These police officers were the largest in the department, with a minimum height of six feet, and their primary duty was simply to escort pedestrians safely across the bedlam of Broadway!

In the 1890s, the traffic pandemonium increased with the bicycle craze. This inspired Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to organize a police bicycle squad, nicknamed the “Scorcher Squad,” to control the bicycle speed-demons who were constantly breaking the 8 mph speed limit.

With the advent of automobiles there were even more problems when attempting to negotiate the thunderous maze of people, horses, carriages, bicycles, and autos on streets that were often unpaved, muddy, or dusty! The early cars frequently broke down, clogging the busy streets, and it was not uncommon to see traffic disputes settled by drivers “duking it out.” It became apparent that some method to regulate traffic was an absolute necessity. Most cities had police directing traffic, which was among the most dangerous assignments. Scores were injured or killed, many died from illness through constant exposure to weather extremes, not to mention daily breathing the brew of dust, manure, and choking auto exhaust. Some cities tried a confusing system of train signals to regulate traffic. London even had gas-powered lamps that blew up.

Then in 1912, Lester Wire, a detective on the Salt Lake City police force, thought of the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:15: “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all …” This inspired Lester to invent one of the world’s first electric traffic lights—a wooden box with red and green colored lights, up on a pole where cars could see it. Soon the idea spread to other cities, where it was improved and refined. Think of how many lives have been saved by this simple verse of Scripture!

Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
- Matthew 5:15

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