The state of Oregon claims that Mats Järlström isn't licensed as an engineer and therefore can't critique the timing for the state's red light cameras.
Red light cameras have a contentious reputation among some drivers as little more than a way for cash-strapped municipalities to increase revenue. Oregon hasn’t helped the safety devices’ poor public opinion after a state engineering board fined a man $500 USD (about $680 CAD) for pointing out a problem with the cameras’ algorithm. The group claimed that Mats Järlström wasn’t a licensed engineer, and therefore wasn’t allowed to practice the discipline. The Institute for Justice has now taken on Järlström’s case.
Järlström is a former member of the Swedish Air Force and now lives in Oregon. He became interested in red light cameras after his wife received a ticket. Järlström started analyzing the algorithm for controlling traffic signals and discovered a serious flaw with how they were integrated with the cameras.
The formula for switching lights was only calculated for vehicles going straight through an intersection – not for drivers making a turn. This was fine before the cameras, but no one changed the algorithm after the safety device’s implementation.
This leads to a problem where someone could have a green light and slow down to make a right turn. Depending on the timing, the light could turn and activate the camera before the person completed cornering. The driver would then receive a ticket despite doing nothing wrong.
Upon making this discovery, Järlström began alerting the media and government about the problem. He even let the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying, and then his legal troubles began. The board declared Järlström “engaged in the unlicensed ‘practice of engineering,’” according to the Institute for Justice and fined him $500 USD.
The Institute for Justice alleges that the state board is impeding Järlström’s freedom of speech. It’s understandable to have licensing requirements for the people engineering roads and buildings. However, Järlström’s actions seem completely different. He isn’t actually constructing anything – merely making a suggestion about how existing technology could work better. The video below offers even more insight into the case.