Oregon fines citizen for criticizing yellow light timing

The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying accused the man of engaging in engineering without a license.

An obscure Oregon state agency has reportedly fined a citizen criticizing traffic light timing at intersections patrolled by red-light cameras.

Mats Järlström became interested in the technology when his wife received a ticket several years ago. His subsequent investigation concluded that the systems were programmed incorrectly, particularly for drivers making turns.

Järlström -- an electronics engineer -- has spent years analyzing the subject and concludes that the duration of yellow lights is too short and represents a safety risk to the public. He wrote a letter to the state's engineering board asking for the opportunity to present his findings for review.

The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying responded with a surprising accusation that Järlström was practicing engineering in the state without a license. The agency eventually handed down a $500 fine for "practicing engineering without being registered," according to excerpts of a letter posted by Motherboard.

Järlström's work on the issue has been done independently, without any outside funding, and he has not been contracted to work on traffic lights in the state or elsewhere. He has consequently teamed with the Institute for Justice to sue the engineering board, arguing that its enforcement action represents a violation of his constitutional rights.

"Mats has a clear First Amendment right to talk about anything from taxes to traffic rights," said Institute for Justice attorney Sam Gedge. "It's an instance of a licensing board trying to suppress speech."

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