Michigan is home to countless creations, famous entertainers, history, food concoctions…and inventions. Let’s face it – Michigan has cranked out some pretty amazing people, things, and stuff.

One worldwide invention that was created in Michigan was the four-way traffic light. The idea came to Detroit police officer William L. Potts in the late 1910s after constantly witnessing traffic accidents, thanks to the popularity of the automobile growing more each week.

99.1 WFMK logo
Get our free mobile app

But what to do about it? He kicked around the idea of a light similar to a railroad signal. So he acquired red and green railroad lights, and even a new light that hadn’t been used before: yellow/amber. Green had originally been used as a ‘proceed with caution’ light until Potts’ creation changed that. Now yellow meant ‘proceed cautiously’ and green now meant ‘go’. The old lights just didn’t give drivers time to slow down and stop, and many accidents couldn’t be avoided. Some towns even tried leaving on the green light simultaneously with the red light for some moments after it changed, but that seemed to confuse commuters even more.

In October 1920, his new creation, a three-color traffic signal tower that could be seen from all directions, was installed for the very first time - at the corner of Woodward and Michigan Avenue in Detroit. After the city acknowledged that the new light did indeed cut down the number of accidents, Detroit installed more, making a total of 15 four-way lights.

William Potts was born in Bad Axe in 1883. When the year 1900 rolled around, then census listed Potts as being 17 years old and a police officer. At 17 years old? I guess it was possible. He passed away in 1947 at the age of 64.

Michigan Man Created the Four-Way Traffic Light, 1920

Included is a gallery of vintage traffic lights



MORE: Michigan Concept Cars - Some Become Stars and Some Are Forgotten

LOOK: See how much gasoline cost the year you started driving

To find out more about how has the price of gas changed throughout the years, Stacker ran the numbers on the cost of a gallon of gasoline for each of the last 84 years. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (released in April 2020), we analyzed the average price for a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline from 1976 to 2020 along with the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for unleaded regular gasoline from 1937 to 1976, including the absolute and inflation-adjusted prices for each year.

Read on to explore the cost of gas over time and rediscover just how much a gallon was when you first started driving.

CHECK IT OUT: Virtual Michigan Car Show

More From 99.1 WFMK