In some form, traffic signals have been used since the time of the Roman Empire. Although the earliest roads constructed anywhere in the world were built in the Bronze Age, the earliest uses for street signs date to the Roman Empire. Early roads, along with traffic signals, began appearing in ancient Rome. It might sound odd to you as an urbanite of today, but early traffic signs were landmarks, used in Ancient Rome.
In short, in the United States, the first road signs were a product of the local car clubs, which formed in cities and regions across the nation during the early 1900s.
While car clubs were busy developing the early road signs, other entities were developing devices for controlling traffic flows. Signs became so essential that car clubs raced to be responsible for placing them on popular roads. Despite cars remaining a luxury good, auto companies were still highly sought after for the production of traffic signs for the wealthiest auto owners, which led many places across the United States to have several signs in one location with varying designs. During the early 1900s, the United States alone saw the need for signs to meet the growing automotive industry.
In the early 1900s, the International Touring Organizations Congress, located at the time in Paris, began to seriously consider the need for standardised signs. The first standards for traffic signs were established by the Congress of International Touring Organizations, located in Paris, in the early 1900s. In 1903, the British Government introduced the FourNational Signs, which were designed to look like shapes, but the main patterns of most traffic signs were established by the International Road Congress of 1908 in Paris. When the volume of traffic began to rise during the 1920s, with people starting to drive unfamiliar roads, there was an urge to have uniform appearances on traffic signs.
It was only after transportation became faster, with the invention of bicycles and automobiles, that a demand developed for better-looking road signs. However, regardless, the growth of cars meant signs became an even greater necessity. Road signs were early traffic-control services that directed travellers along their routes.
As today’s drivers, we are used to driving down roads filled with standardised signs, which are regulated in The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). With more than 164,000 miles of freeways in the U.S. and four million miles of public roads, traffic signals are a necessity in today’s world. In the modern age, it is difficult to imagine a world without traffic signs, and even harder to imagine a world before the need for them. The history of road signs goes back to the early 1800s, and the earliest traffic signs were meant for bikes, warning riders about bad roads, unsafe turns, and so on.
Standardizing the way traffic signs were probably years away from becoming what we know and see today, but Ancient Rome was the first people who got a taste for using traffic signs. The Romans placed markers on mile markers at intersections on the famed Appian Way, which indicated how far away Rome was; these markers were the earliest road signs. These Roman signs consisted of a series of stones, marking every mile of the route. Early signs were erected by Romans, who had markers installed on highways.
One sign, originating from the late 1800s, is the skull-and-crossbones design, a warning for cyclists about steep hills. Most of the first traffic signs, such as those made by the Automobile Association of America, were made from wood and placed on iron posts. Also, instead of using strong wood signs, modern road signs will come in designs made from steel, aluminium, or plywood to shatter upon impact, inflicting less damage on any car or driver who hits them.
First, traffic management signage were no longer made from stone, as they were in Roman times, or from cast iron or unfinished wood, as were the early traffic signs. The elaborate signs that we now have are all rooted in the roads of the Roman Empire, but to be fair, the modern revival of road signs is only slightly more than 100 years old. The UK adopted some version of the Europe’s road-signage system in 1964, and in recent decades, North American signs started using a few symbols and graphics mixed with the English language.
In 1956, Road signs in the Republic of Ireland were changed from the British standards, adopting American-style diamond-shaped signs for many traffic-hazard alerts (junctions, curves, railroad crossings, stop signs). A circular lettering alphabet replaced the standard block lettering, sign legends were simplified by eliminating superfluous words or replacing words with symbols, and a minimum retro-reflective layer was established that would be maintained on all signs on public roads. Other developments, such as signs and sounds for hearing and sight impaired, yellow traffic lines for multi-directional traffic, and reflective materials and traffic signal illumination continued into the late 20th century. In 1686, Portugals King Peter II established Europe’s first known Traffic Law, but the first modern traffic signs to be installed in large numbers were designed for riders on tall, or regular, bikes during the late 1870s and early 1880s.
In the early 1920s, representatives of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Indiana visited multiple states, intending to establish the foundations of uniform signs and street lane markings. As early as 1899, an initial group, the Automobile Association of America, was formed, partly to place signs along crowded roads to aid the navigation of travellers toward destinations. When the American Automobile Association was launched in 1902, its mission was to put navigational signs on roads to help travellers avoid getting lost.