Perspectives

Traffic Light Critic Fined for Research (Editorial)

A man's research findings on an outdated traffic camera formula led to a two-year investigation resulting in a fine.

by The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review / May 3, 2017
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(TNS) -- Government licensing that protects entrenched interests by blocking would-be competitors is bad enough. But the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying sank to a new low by fining a man with an electrical engineering degree $500 simply because he publicly challenged traffic lights' timing without a state engineering license.

After Sweden native Mats Jarlstrom's wife got a 2013 red-light-camera ticket in Beaverton, Ore., he researched such lights' timing, concluding its basis was an outdated formula that didn't account for extra time needed when slowing to turn. When Mr. Jarlstrom offered his research to the state board, it launched a two-year investigation resulting in the fine, which he paid. But he still shared his research with media outlets and (presumably licensed, ahem!) traffic engineers.

With the libertarian Institute for Justice's help, Jarlstrom has filed a federal lawsuit against the board, seeking no money — just a court order ending the board's blatant violation of First Amendment rights.

He's not the board's first target: It has used the same rationale against political candidates with engineering degrees and job histories who called themselves “engineers' in campaign materials, according to Reason.com .

Jarlstrom told NBC News: “People should be free to debate any topic, including technical topics like math and traffic lights.” Indeed they should, which should make winning his lawsuit — and reining in licensing's overreaching bureaucrats — a slam-dunk.

©2017 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.