The modern three-color traffic light was invented 100 years ago. The inventor was a Michigander named William Potts. History does not reveal whether another traffic phenomenon, the pot hole, was named after Mr. Potts, as well. If it was his idea, no doubt he distanced himself from it the same way the Ford family tried to disown the Edsel.

Nevertheless, it is 100 years later and, while the three-color traffic light is ubiquitous in cities everywhere larger than Nunica, drivers are still confused. A yellow light means slow down and prepare to stop to some, while others see this as an urgent request to press the accelerator to the floor. Some, often the first person in line waiting for the signal to change, are even still confused by green, apparently believing they must wait for a brighter shade of green before they lurch forward and allow modern society to get on its way.

Tim Penning, Ph.D., is a professor and writer.

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