By on January 4, 2019

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We’ve told you before about the legal saga of Mats Järlström, a Swedish-born man living in the green and uber progressive state of Oregon. A few years ago, Järlström found himself in the crosshairs of the Oregon Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying after performing and submitting an analysis of his town’s traffic light timing — specifically, the duration of the amber light cycle.

What ensued was a constitutional legal battle over over the ability to refer to one’s self as an expert in the field of their expertise; in this case, engineering.

This all came about after Järlström’s wife received a red light camera ticket.

You can read about the developments here and here. Järlström, who holds holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Sweden, submitted his three-year analysis of the state’s traffic light cycles (the amber cycle’s too short, he says) while referring to himself as an engineer. The state board slapped him with a $500 fine for “unlicensed practice of engineering.”

Having a background in engineering, Järlström felt he should be legally allowed to refer to himself as an engineer, even though he was not registered as an engineer in Oregon. After finding legal backing in the libertarian group Institute for Justice, Järlström sued.

While the board eventually admitted it violated his free speech rights, refunding the fine and offering to drop its efforts against the engineer — so long as he stopped calling himself that while not acting in a commercial or professional capacity — Järlström pressed on. A few days before the New Year, he finally got his way.

As Oregon Live reports, U.S. Magistrate Judge Stacie F. Beckerman ruled in federal court that some of Oregon’s rules pertaining to engineering practices violates the First Amendment. The state board has shown a “history of overzealous enforcement actions,” Beckerman said in her ruling, adding that “the statutes prohibit truthfully describing oneself as an ‘engineer,’ in any context.”

The state must now remove its definition of “engineer” from Oregon law books, replacing it with a description of who can be considered a “professional” or “registered” engineer. As for Järlström, he can now call himself an engineer both publicly and privately. He can also talk about his traffic light findings freely, so long as he doesn’t do so from a position on a board or from a group that regulates traffic light timing.

You can fight The Man.

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22 Comments on “You Can Fight Oregon and Win: Five-year Battle Sparked by Red Light Ticket Ends...”


  • avatar
    vvk

    This is most satisfying!

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Yes, it is.

      Being a “registered” or “professional” engineer means you’ve passed some tests, but mostly it means you’re on the hook legally for the documents you sign, and can serve as an expert witness in court.

      However, as a practicing engineer (not ‘professional’ in the legal sense) who passed the EIT exam many years ago, I’d just as soon trust the work of someone with accomplished experience than simply rely on a piece of paper.

      This was nothing more than a state-run scam on the citizens. Mr Järlström’s math on yellow light duration was simple and straight-forward, and it’s not like he was presenting structural analysis, for instance. The state was trying to obfuscate their weak case with grandstanding, and I’m very happy this turned out so well.

      Also, I hope the state is ordered to pay his legal bills.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    I have no problem with this person referring to themselves as an engineer.

    As a licensed Professional Engineer, (PE) I can refer to myself and the license number given to me by the state of Pennsylvania. My license is only valid in PA, there are varying requirements to be licensed in each state.

    The majority of people that practice engineering, especially within larger companies, do not go through the process of licensing. They have a degree in engineering (AS/BS/MS) and refer to themselves as an engineer in professional correspondence. Usually only a few persons are licensed, and they review the work of those below them before signing off.

    Just like every scientist does not have a PhD, not every engineer has a PE. We usually joke the more titles after someone’s name, the harder they are to work with.

  • avatar
    ToddAtlasF1

    I suppose it is nice that Oregon lost this round of shrink the first amendment, but has anything been done to stop them shrinking yellow light cycles until revenue targets are reached?

  • avatar

    Mats Jarlstrom is one of many people and groups that have been fighting the for-profit rackets of red light cameras that use deliberately faulty and less safe engineering parameters to literally rob mostly safe drivers for harmless split second violations CAUSED by the deliberately faulty engineering. It is a great victory for truth.

    Nationwide, the for-profit rackets of red light cameras are losing. CA has only 29 active programs in a state that once had 105 programs. NJ ended a 5 year program when no safety benefits were seen. Florida just release the 2017-2018 annual camera report, at least the third such report, that showed increased crash rates at camera intersections – proof the rackets are NOT about safety, but instead about $$$$$$$$. It is just a matter of time to end these for-profit rackets in every state.

    • 0 avatar
      stingray65

      That is the problem – red light cameras probably will have some positive safety effects if they are NOT designed to also raise revenue, but it is very clear that the number 1 reason for their installation is to raise revenue, and raising revenue means shortening the yellow light.

  • avatar
    RedRocket

    Governments will defend their revenue streams, regardless of source or ethics thereof, more fiercely than a mommy bear protecting her cubs.

  • avatar
    Fred

    I have an Associates degree in drafting. In my career I’ve been titled as an Engineer, then it’s been taken away because someone in HR thought it was illegal. Then it was re-instated because my pay was too much for a drafter or a designer, then taken away then I retired as a Product Specialist, which I guess is nebulous enough not to invite attention. I call myself an Engineer because people understand it. Designer, Design-Drafter etc all require explanation that I don’t care to do. So sue me.

    • 0 avatar
      ghostwhowalksnz

      In my country theres restriction on who can call themselves lawyers and architects- who have to be current members of the professional body. So even legally qualified person who is no longer has his annual practising certificate cant call himself a lawyer. Those who have a qualification in architecture but not enough to qualify for the professional body just call themselves architectural designers or designers for short.
      However Engineer is allowed to be broader with only professional engineer title for those in the professional body . However Fire Engineer is a restricted title, much like medical doctor is , so those who are nurses cant call themselves doctors.

      • 0 avatar
        Fred

        Here in the USA Professional Engineers are regulated by each state. You have to have so much college and or experience, pass a test and of course pay a fee. I would never represent myself as a PE, but I have done some of their work (seismic calcs) and then they review and sign off.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people. Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

  • avatar
    SwiftLegend

    As an FYI–

    Numerous manufacturing companies like to list people as “engineers” or even “senior project engineer” and since the guy has gray hair you believe it. The fact is the guy has a 1yr technical degree and is just a yesman trying to still look competent and the company doesn’t want to pay a real engineer the wage that is required. The amount of money they lose without even knowing it is absurd trying this tactic.

  • avatar

    For stingray65
    Correct, if red light cameras ticketed only the dangerous drivers they could be OK – and no one would object. The problem with that approach is that if they stopped ticketing safe drivers with bad engineering and predatory enforcement rules, the total fines at most cameras wouldn’t be enough to pay the $4,000 to $5,000 per month per camera costs plus the local administrative expenses. And cities won’t use cameras that lose money. They are sold to city councils on the basis they are “free money” and if that stops, the cameras stop.

  • avatar

    For Fred:
    No one should be able to do the work of a PE without the requisite education and license.

    Mats Jarlstrom and MANY MANY other people and groups can do the simple calculations for yellow intervals and see whether particular lights are timed for safety – or NOT.

    No PE should ever engineer traffic lights for conditions that do not exist and which make the for-profit red light camera rackets profitable. Actions like that should cause the PE to have their license suspended or revoked.

    • 0 avatar
      Fred

      I’ve done dozens of fixes to control panels by simply reloading the default program. Maintenance always tell me someone complains about the lack of water pressure. I’m not sure how lights work, but I would suspect the same can happen.

  • avatar

    For Fred
    I have no problem with maintenance issues, I was speaking of new designs and plans that should require the signature & seal of a PE.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    The guy won the battle but lost the war. Oregon succeeded in drawing out his case over some technical detail over five years and, from what I can gather, absolutely nothing has changed in their redlight camera program.

    Even if it has, anyone want to bet that, over the course of the last five years, Oregon has been gleefully raking in the dough from the cameras? That’s how these things work. They install the cameras, there’s some sort of legal challenge which ultimately might prevail, but not until the windfall goes on for a long time.

    The bottom line is that’s a lot to go through to get out of one redlight scam ticket.

  • avatar
    frank smith

    In Plano, TX, the stoplight amber time fluctuates. I’ve seen the amber for a left turn last 2 seconds or less when it normally was twice that long. Of course, that light had a camera.

  • avatar

    Agreed it was a lot to go through to get out of one red light scam ticket, but it was a win in a major battle in two ways that are leading to wins in the wars. First, Mats can continue speaking out himself, both orally and in writing, to reveal how the scams work to officials and the public. Second, the press coverage of his battle has been nationwide, and that helps educate people who have not studied the issues about how the scams work. Red light camera rackets are on the decline as more and more people see them for what they are – rackets.

  • avatar

    Traditional engineering documents FALSELY suggest that left turn lane yellows can be shorter than for the through lanes because turning cars go slower so the approach speed number (v) in the formula can be smaller. It is absolutely incorrect for places with dedicated turn lanes and for light traffic conditions that allow the cars to maintain close to through lane speeds until very near the actual turning movements. Florida mandated that turn lanes must have yellows the same as through lanes in September 2013 and many of the turn lane camera violation rates went down by about 90%.

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