Mats Jarlstrom is in a First Amendment legal battle over the right to discuss traffic-light times in Oregon.
An Oregon engineer who has been trying for years to convince state officials to elongate yellow traffic light times has a new cause: the First Amendment.
Mats Jarlstrom, who has an engineering degree from Sweden, has performed a variety of research and has concluded that yellow lights should last longer to allow for vehicles turning right.
The state’s response was not to consider his advice, but to fine him. Last summer, he was fined $500 (PDF) by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying because he was found to be practicing engineering without a license. While states require engineers to have licenses and pass exams, Oregon also requires a license to even discuss engineering publicly or even to say you’re an engineer.
Jarlstrom’s letters to public agencies and the media discussing the need for new thinking in traffic lights prompted the fine.
After paying up, he sued (PDF), saying the government’s behavior was a breach of the First Amendment right of speech. Jarlstrom wasn’t the only person the Oregon engineering board fined for speaking out against government practices, either.
According to his legal team, the Institute for Justice, as many as six other people have been caught in the Oregon board’s web.
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