Thursday, April 27, 2017

Oregon Imposes $500 Fine On Man For Criticizing Traffic Light Timing

Source: Institute for Justice

The Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying fined resident Mats Järlström for making mathematical critiques of yellow light timing and calling himself an engineer without being licensed by the board. The entire debacle started in 2013 when Mats's wife received a traffic ticket in the mail after a traffic camera caught her running a red light. This piqued Mats's interest in traffic light timing. Mats Järlström received a bachelors in electrical engineering in his home country of Sweden after which he worked for the Swedish air force fixing pilot cameras and then Luxor Electronics before moving to the U.S. in 1992. He used his engineering knowledge and skills to study yellow light timing and ultimately came to the conclusion that the original formula for the length of yellow lights, drafted in 1959, did not account for motorist making right turns. Mats spoke to the public about his findings, including the local news, and went so far as to present his findings at a national conference of the Institute of Transportation Engineers in Los Angeles. Eventually the Board of Examiners caught wind of Mats's public outreach and launched a two year investigation at the conclusion of which they fined him $500 for 'practicing engineering without a license' because the state's definition of the law is so vague that it includes mathematical critiques of the length of yellow lights. Mats was also warned to stop calling himself an engineer in public, even though he earned a bachelors in electrical engineering and was licensed in Sweden.

If we were to use this Oregon law as a precedent for other professions it would become illegal to criticize the government without being licensed to practice law. This very article you are reading would be illegal along with the entire site. If this precedent were taken to its logical conclusion the U.S. would become a totalitarian state like Saudi Arabia and North Korea. Freedom of speech entails, among other things, the right to debate and discuss subjects regardless of how technical they are, provided the subject does not entail information that would be injurious to another party or parties if disclosed. Hopefully the District court strikes this down law very quickly.

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