Engineer Sues for Right to Call Out Traffic Camera Problems

Mats Järlström was slapped with a $500 fine for criticizing traffic light formulas
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2017 7:50 PM CDT

(Newser) – After electronics engineer Mats Järlström publicly challenged the mathematical formula used by the traffic cameras in his town of Beaverton, Ore., he was slapped with a $500 ticket for practicing engineering without a license. Now he’s suing the Oregon State Board of Examiners for squashing his First Amendment right to discuss public safety issues, reports NBC News. The story began in 2013 when Järlström’s wife received a $260 ticket for running a red light, Oregon Live reported in 2014. He studied the light cycles at various intersections caught by traffic cameras and claimed that the formulas were outdated; he believes the yellow light cycle is too short for turning lanes. He attended more than a dozen city council meetings, did interviews with local television stations, and even wrote to the state’s board of engineer examiners.

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That’s where his trouble started, reports Motherboard, because he included the words, “I am an engineer” in his email. State law says that engineers must be licensed by the state to practice engineering, which includes speaking on the topic. The automated traffic cameras in Beaverton resulted in 25,000 tickets between 2001 and 2014, many of which the 56-year-old Järlström believes are unwarranted. But for Järlström, who paid the board's $500 fine (his wife's original $260 fine was also paid), the matter is now more personal. "It's important in my mind we can share ideas freely in Oregon to promote innovation,'' he says, per Oregon Live. "I feel violated at this point in time.'' And his work is far from done: He's also working on an article on the subject he hopes to publish in an academic journal. (Read more red-light cameras stories.)

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