Oregon Man Fined for Talking About Traffic Lights Sues

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – An Oregon resident trained in engineering in Sweden says he’s developed a safer method for timing traffic lights, and the state engineering board fined him for talking about it.

Mats Jarlstrom says Oregon laws make it illegal for anyone who isn’t a licensed engineer to criticize the state’s methods for timing traffic lights. Jarlstrom calls that an unconstitutional prohibition on free speech.

In a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday, Jarlstrom claims Oregon’s Professional Engineer Registration Act illegally restricts discussion of public engineering projects to state-licensed engineers and creates a “government-run monopoly on engineering concepts.”

The act, and the board that enforces it, keep people from discussing the safety and fairness of traffic lights and the formulas engineers use to coordinate their timing, Jarlstrom claims.

Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying fined Jarlstrom after finding his public discussion of the formula for traffic-light timing was “clearly not protected speech.”

But Jarlstrom says his critique is exactly the kind of speech protected by the First Amendment.

Jarlstrom was born in Sweden, where he graduated with the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He says he worked in technical fields with the Swedish Air Force and Luxor Electronics before moving to Beaverton, Oregon, 20 years ago.

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