A special tribute to a great British institution, often honoured in the breach: the traffic light. In the 1920s, those few people who owned early cars in Wolverhampton had a shock. They were confronted with the first ever set of automatic traffic lights in the UK. Today they are a sophisticated weapon in the war against congestion, with timings calculated to the second. Traffic lights quite literally control our lives. Joe Kerr celebrates their colourful history.