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Oregon punished an engineer for criticizing red-light cameras. He fought and won (washingtonpost.com)
518 points by notlob on Dec 8, 2017 | hide | past | favorite | 311 comments

That's just insulting... the state says they acted unconstitutionally.. so they offered him $500 -- which is just a refund of the fine he already paid -- and asked the court to dismiss the case. After he had to pay 4 years of lawyers fees, take them to court, etc. It's just a big FU, and I have no doubt they won't change a thing if they successfully get the court to dismiss it.

If the court allows this, then the state won. They've sent their message: pay the fine, or we'll fight you in court for years, force you to pay thousands to lawyers, and maybe in the end we'll give you a refund of any fine you paid if it looks like you might win.

Some of the original articles (that I’m too lazy to dig up and cite) stated that Oregon was telling him not to SAY that he was an engineer in his correspondence with them and in media portrayals because it’s a licensed profession.

At some point people started reporting about how the state has basically used this licensing requirement as a way to gag people from publicly disclosing any kind of ‘technical’ information, and that’s where people started really jumping on board with his case.

Kudos to him for sticking it through. Hopefully it leads to a change in our traffic laws AND our laws regarding ‘technical’ information and engineering licensing.

A HUGE F you to the state/county/city beaureacrats and lawyers that just pissed away tens (or more) of thousands of dollars just because they could.

>Oregon was telling him not to SAY that he was an engineer in his correspondence with them and in media portrayals because it’s a licensed profession.

according to Oregon's own gov website the licensed profession is "Professional Engineer". Seems like a similar difference between Registered Nurse and just a nurse.


> Seems like a similar difference between Registered Nurse and just a nurse.

That is a distinction that was invented by the state.

Calling yourself an "engineer" is unspecific, and is not a claim to authority, but to knowledge. To claim that it is suddenly a specific claim to authority is to redefine the term.

When you redefine a common term, and punish someone for not knowing you did so, that is a real problem. In this case, that was simply done to delegitimize him, which is clearly malicious.

Most annoyingly, as someone who lives in Oregon I don't want to pay for this. I certainly want the poor guy who tried to fix something broken to be hugely compensated. However, I want whoever did this to pay for it.

I also want then to stop focusing traffic tickets on speeding and instead fine people who cause traffic jams by not accelerating when entering the freeway or go unnecessary slow. But well that's of course never gonna happen and probably most native Oregonians would be fine constantly because they drive insanely slow...

Growing up in Oregon I was always annoyed by the slow as hell left lane campers. Having spent a half decade elsewhere and recently moving back it has escalated from annoyance to blood boiling seething rage.

When I left Seattle, the state of WA was really making a push to get slowpokes out of the left lane with a media campaign and instituting tickets for people who are slowing traffic down.

I LOVE the idea.

I've felt the same way about "slow as hell left lane campers" for years and thought that maybe — if states never did anything to fix it — there might be a commercial solution to fixing this.

The idea I came up with awhile ago was to build a network of motorcyclists willing to attach a sign to the back of their bike, that reads (something like), "You're causing traffic by being in this lane at your speed - please move to right as soon as it's safe to do so." The motorcyclists would make their way in front of the slow left-laner - so that the sign is visible to the slow poke - with the hopes of persuading them to move to the right lane.

Meanwhile, also on the sign would be instructions for the other drivers out there, who witness the value the motorcyclist provided, to send a little micropayment electronically to the motorcyclist as a thank you.

Maybe this takes the form of a grassroots DIY movement where the motorcyclists handle all this themselves, or maybe there's an opportunity for a company to exist that creates the signs and facilitates the micropayments - and in return takes a cut of each micropayment (a la Patreon).

Obviously this assumes that all this can be achieved safely and legally. Thorough testing would have to be done on that front.

Let me know if anyone wants to kick around this idea further - even if just for fun.

I doubt it would work. It's like the signs that say "Drive like your kids live here!" Every time I see those, I want to speed up. I know it's stupid. But the moral finger wagging of it just sets off something. I actually agree with the sentiment - it's just the way it's presented.

as a motorcyclist, i have another idea

get more people to ride motorcycles. an oft-cited study [1] shows that a 10% increase in motorcycle ridership would cut time lost to traffic by 63%

1: http://www.acem.eu/images/stories/doc/pressreleases/2011/PTW...

I wonder how much this would decrease the wait times for donated organs?

How much would it increase commuting-related injuries and fatalities though?

Motorcycle fatalities already make up a hugely disproportional number of the total highway fatalities in the USA. And half of those fatalities occur in single-vehicle accidents.

The idea won't work.

In TX, all highways have clear signs saying "LEFT LANE FOR PASSING ONLY", and guess how many people notice them?

I've also known people who think it's OK to be in the left lane if they're going the speed limit.

Do you think these people will be educated by waving a sign in front of them from a motorcycle? They'll just get angry.

> I've also known people who think it's OK to be in the left lane if they're going the speed limit.

I would think it's OK if there is traffic in the other lanes too (otherwise you should go back to the lanes on the right).

But why does it bother you? Do you think it's OK to go above the speed limit? Just curious.

>I would think it's OK if there is traffic in the other lanes too (otherwise you should go back to the lanes on the right).

Yes, that's common sense.

>But why does it bother you? Do you think it's OK to go above the speed limit? Just curious.

What I think about going than higher than the speed limit is irrelevant. If you aren't passing by going the speed limit, you should not be in the left lane too. Why shouldn't you? Well:

1. Because it's against what the law says!

2. Because it slows down the flow of traffic.

3. Because it creates a road hazard, as people who actually try to use the passing lane for passing will have to slow down if a vehicle merges at a slower speed.

4. Because this actually makes passing impossible, which kills the whole point of the passing lane.

5. Did I say it creates a road hazard already? https://lifehacker.com/help-your-kids-record-and-edit-a-fami...

Are you seriously proposing that motorcyclists get in FRONT of drivers on the highway with a sign on their back to provoke the drivers into going faster, for a micropayment?

Motorcyclists have enough trouble as it is.

No. If you read the comment you'll see that I'm not proposing that the slow drivers speed up -- but just that they get out of the passing lane. In fact, to your point about motorcycle safety, I'd encourage them to maintain their slow speed if that's where their comfortable, but just move to the right (when it's safe).

I don't think you could do this for less than about $10 per incident, so the crowdfunders would have to be pretty generous. And it sounds like the sort of thing that runs the risk of road rage.

Or you can just flash your high beams, pass on the right lane, etc.

> pass on the right lane

Unless there is someone in that lane going the same speed, or slightly slower, which is very common in a two-lane road near where I live.

There are also people who drive rather dangerously out of frustration when they cannot pass, making the entire situation more dangerous. The problem is that the slow drivers have been taught that "driving slow = correct", and that everyone around them must be doing it wrong.

If we put half of the focus we do with speed to things like this, our roads would be much better for it.

You have a naive understanding of human behavior. This would make the motorcyclist a target of rage by some subset of camping drivers. The camping driver may decide to intentionally inhibit traffic by pacing a large truck.

What I am saying is that when two cars are side-by-side going very near the same speed, they both feel vindicated by the fact that they are driving relatively slow, because there is a propaganda-fueled culture that focuses on speed.

They do not feel like they should do something, like drive faster or slower to allow traffic to flow around them.

This causes much more dangerous traffic situations, because traffic gets bottled up, and there are always a few cars that want to go significantly faster, and aren't afraid to drive more dangerously out of frustration.

Those drivers who drive more dangerously are seen by the slow drivers in the front to be the real problem. The drivers in the front then feel more vindicated in their "correct" driving style.

Growing up in Oregon I was always annoyed by the slow as hell left lane campers

Now imagine that you grew up somewhere where only senile old ladies park in the left lane (preferably with left blinker on). “Blood boiling seething rage” is about right when I moved to Seattle. I’ve since become at peace with shitty driving, else I was going to have an aneurism.

That “push” you refer to to get folks out of the left lane? From my POV they made a bunch of noise on TV, but haven’t done shit. The left lane sure isn’t any better than it ever was. Nope, made some noise for a week, back to business as usual.

Growing up in the Seattle area, I always joked that drivers in WA were slow and passive, and OR drivers were slow but aggressive. (and CA was fast and aggressive; OR just happened to be the worst of both worlds).

It's just so insanely bad whenever I go back up there to visit. You'll spend 10 minutes going 59mph in the left of 5 lanes and never be able to change lanes, make an exit, make it past the person in front of you.

And to add insult to injury, the WSP sits there with laser speed traps every 10 miles just in case you dare go 61mph.

Yeah, they've started to ticket people for this lately and it's been a god-send.

Since the port shut down in Portland I see so much stupid stuff on I-5 as the increased semi traffic + left-lane campers can turn the 2-3 lanes into a gridlock and cause all sorts of dangerous situations.

I moved back to OR from the Midwest last spring.. its maddening that all 3 lanes seem to travel within 3-5 mph of each other, usually right at the speed limit (or lately, in the dark at 5pm, under it), and nobody passes anyone..

Maddening? That sounds perfectly peaceful to me! It sounds like everyone just wants to get where they're going, safely. Why do you feel so driven (!) to go so fast?

Given the choice between what you describe---an orderly set of traffic at near the speed limit---or a free-for-all in which inevitably an aggressive lane-changer clips someone at 85mph spreading blood and metal all over the highway and stopping traffic for miles? Maybe I should move to Oregon :P

I'm not sure if you're just trolling here, but will address some issues.

The assumption that a set maximum speed is the safest for all drivers is erroneous. There are many factors at play and a proper safe speed depends in part on the driver, the driving conditions, and the car they are driving (and much more).

Unless you are in very heavy traffic, forcing people to go slow or worse to pass you on the right is causing a much larger safety issue.

If we are interested in improving safety imo we should be focused on things like vastly improving driver education and requiring any driver to show knowledge, understanding and skills related to driving - including and especially on high speed highways. In California, you can get a license without ever actually driving on a highway (or "freeway") - which is absurd.

Please compare death rates from countries around the world (including Germany): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autobahn#Safety:_international...

It's much harder to get a license in Germany than it is here in the US!

The motorway death rate in Germany is almost half what it is in the US.

I urge you to think about this and question your assumptions.

I am most certainly not trolling, I was merely pointing out that the parent's characterization that "its maddening that all 3 lanes seem to travel within 3-5 mph of each other, usually right at the speed limit" sounds to me a lot better than 3 lanes with large speed differentials between them.

I don't understand the desire for people to want to exceed the speed limit, even if as you maintain, they are capable drivers in suitable conditions with a suitable vehicle. The speed limit should just not be exceeded, except when needed to expedite an overtake. Whether you believe you are capable of safely driving 85 is irrelevant if the speed limit is 65.

> forcing people to go slow or worse to pass you on the right is causing a much larger safety issue

You are pinning an argument that I never made. I was never defending left-lane bandits. If someone is driving 10 under in the left lane, yes that's bad they should stop that. But if all 3 lanes are moving steadily at the speed limit, you have no right to insist that people move to accomodate your desire to exceed the limit.

You are bringing up Germany to suggest that it's safe to have faster speed limits, but then mention that licensing requirements are much more stringent in Germany. I wish the US had such requirements, we might then have a safer culture of driving! You can't take Autobahn rules and try to make them work in the US because the level of driving ability is so poor.

Please do not misquote me to make your point. The full quote reads:

> Unless you are in very heavy traffic, forcing people to go slow or worse to pass you on the right is causing a much larger safety issue

If traffic is heavy in all lanes, I think most people would agree you just need to relax and go with the flow on a highway. That applies just as much here as it does on the Autobahn in Germany.

However, if traffic is not heavy - Oregon like California is a "keep right" state - so if you are in the left lane and someone is coming up behind you, you need to yield - regardless of the speed limit.

It's not just the law, it's also the safer thing to do.

I think we are in agreement here. The scenario I was envisioning assumed heavy traffic. I completely agree that failure to keep right is as dangerous and unlawful as excessive speeding.

I would definitely be in support of higher posted speed limits if, as in Germany, it also came with stricter driver training. Sadly I don't see that happening in the US.

Still I don't think it was fair to call me a troll.

ok thank you for the clarification

I think it's clear now you weren't "trolling". Your original response seemed to me so against the tide here that I thought you might be intentionally antagonizing. My apologies.

Funny enough the correlation between speed and traffic fatalities doesn't seem to matter that much. Speed limits on the German Autobahn are famously much higher but there are fewer fatalities per mile traveled. I'm inclined to believe that the reason is that traffic there and in northern Europe in general is in fact much more orderly then traffic in the US. No overtaking on the right ever. Cars only move into the left lane to overtake somebody. That requires a lot more lane changes, but they are very predictable lane changes and the is so much less to watch it for. People also accelerate properly before entering the Autobahn. So your speed delta to cars in the land you are trying to merge into is usually quite low.

It also takes many hours of driving with a trained driving instructor and a full hour practical test plus a genuinely hard theoretical test to get a license.

Edit: I grew up in Germany and when I moved to southern California traffic terrified me. It was much slower than traffic on the Autobahn but the chaos was just terrifying. Oregon traffic is super slow but still pure chaos compared to what I've experienced anywhere in Europe.

Occasionally people need to change lanes, which is impossible when every lane is packed with cars going nowhere.

Driving slow as shit and obliviously or passive-aggressively blocking traffic impedes traffic flow, causes tailgating, incites road rage, and does nothing pleasant whatsoever.

Parent said all lanes driving "usually right at the speed limit". How do you interpret that as "Driving slow as shit"?

Tautology. Much of Oregon is 55 and sometimes even 50mph speed limits on the Interstate HIGHWAYS.

Its a free-for-all when everyone picks arbitrary speeds and are in any lane they feel like. It would be much safer for everyone to go the same speed. But with heavy trucks, economy cars, and people who won't let you in, and people who simply refuse to go faster, its currently not possible.

Both reasonably slow and fast drivers can coexist if they follow some basic rules. Always be aware of vehicles around you. Don't cut people off. Let people in. Don't abruptly unless there's an emergency. Keep the passing lane open unless traffic is very heavy.

They recently passed a law in Texas that would fine these left-lane campers. I haven't noticed a change yet but hopefully eventually enough of these idiots get ticketed to send a message.

Its incredibly infuriating; I can totally relate to your sentiment. But there's a special place in hell for those dummies who won't even listen when I blink my headlights, signalling politely to them to please leave the left lane. About 80% Texans do so, and I'm happy. But the 20% that don't, I flip them off every time, since they fucking deserve it.

> But the 20% that don't, I flip them off every time, since they fucking deserve it.

Man, that's harsh! If these victims of yours are doing 45 on the interstate then a flash and a honk is certainly in order, but I sincerely hope you're not acting this way to people doing 75 when you want to be doing 90. In any case, if someone's going a little slower than you, as long as it's not jeapordizing your safety (i.e. backing up aggressive drivers behind you), then ask yourself why do you have to be in such a hurry?

I see far too much aggressive driving that seems needless, given the very real risk of serious injury or death. While I agree that slow driving can be just as dangerous as fast driving, all I ask is that you try to keep to the speed limit and only exceed it reasonably when safe to do so, keep a safe distance around other vehicles, and keep the bird on the steering wheel :)

A little civility and due regard for the fact that everyone wants to get home in one piece!

> I sincerely hope you're not acting this way to people doing 75 when you want to be doing 90.

Rate of speed is irrelevant. If you are not actively passing a vehicle, you have zero reason to be in the left lane. This assumes something resembling fairly open roads - stop and go traffic of course is wildly different.

What is a safe speed is a different discussion. So many folks have the attitude of "I'm doing 8 over already! They shouldn't be going faster than me! I'm not moving over! I'll show them!" while acting like a petty highway vigilante. Nevermind they are the most dangerous person on the road as people blow by them in the right lane rightfully pissed off.

> A little civility and due regard

And I would say the same. Left lane hugging may be one of the most unsafe behaviours on the road aside from not moving over when someone is stopped on the shoulder - and I've noticed a high correlation between the drivers who do neither.

> If you are not actively passing a vehicle, you have zero reason to be in the left lane.

Well, aside from left lane exits, upcoming forks, and that the left lane is where special limited-use lanes tends to be, and, most critically...

> This assumes something resembling fairly open road

If someone has bothered to build a multiplane highway in the US, it tends to only rarely be so underutilized as to resemble fairly open road. Even if it's not “stop and go”, much of the time it is continuous traffic at some speed in all lanes, not sparse traffic in the right lane (or even the lane just to the right of the leftmost) and no significant traffic in the lane to the left allowing one to use the right for all regular travel and only move left to pass and then return to the right.

And the induced traffic effect means that adding additional capacity doesn't actually change this meaningfully.

> Rate of speed is irrelevant.

Rate of speed is relevant for two reasons. First, there is a posted speed limit. Second, kinetic energy is proportional to the square of velocity. All else being equal, an accident at 90mph is going to be far more dangerous than one at 60mph.

> If you are not actively passing a vehicle, you have zero reason to be in the left lane.

The scenario under discussion was all lanes of traffic driving steadily at the limit. In such a scenario, you have zero reason to need to pass anyone. Surely you must agree that all lanes driving the limit is better than forcing everyone in the left lane to move over so that a few people can drive in excess of the limit? Having all lanes utilized at the limit is clearly the most efficient way to generate the most traffic throughput.

> Nevermind they are the most dangerous person on the road as people blow by them in the right lane rightfully pissed off.

Wait, so you're saying it should be acceptable to blow past someone who's already doing 8 over the limit? What are you thinking of, 15 or 20 over the limit? That's ridiculous, you have no "right" to be be rightfully pissed off because you can't drive 20 over the limit!

>But the 20% that don't, I flip them off every time, since they fucking deserve it.

You're a prime candidate for anger management classes. If you get so stressed over something that minor, better get good insurance for your cardio problems later on.

The left hand lane is the natural place for slow drivers. just because you Americans (of the USA kind) live in a mirror image world, doesn't mean that the natural order of things shouldn't be obeyed.

Left hand lane is for slow drivers, Right hand lane is those going faster. When many of you lot come to my country, you suddenly get a light on and realise that your road rules are those of a drongo and you appreciate that you are now driving in a sane world.

>hell left lane campers.

It's 2017. We have cameras, "repeated failure to move right for faster traffic" should not be a hard ticket to write to a high standard of proof.

It kinda turns into the problem (if you want to call it that) in California where you must keep up with traffic but you also must not go over posted speed limits. Basically putting you always in violation of a law if they really wanted to get you.

My biggest gripe about drivers in Oregon is the people that zip in and out of lanes at high speeds without signaling and the amount of people in city traffic that simply don’t look where they’re going.

Just stay in the right lane if everyone else is speeding and you don't want to. Oregon has minimum speed limits too though.

The right lane is for people driving below the maximum speed limit.

The second lane from the right is for people driving faster than people in the right lane.

The left lane is for people driving the maximum speed limit. People weaving in and out of the left lane so they can pass people who are driving at the maximum allowed speed are a problem.

Because instrumentation is imperfect, two drivers who believe they are driving at maximum allowed speed could be driving at different speeds. Ideally, there would be enough lanes for people to travel constantly in the second from the left lane at maximum speed limit, and to move into the left lane to pass somebody who's instruments have them traveling slightly slower. But traffic is never ideal, and extra lanes are very expensive. So people need to chill when the driver in front of them seems to be traveling 2mph below the max speed limit. On a 60 mile commute this won't make more than 2 minutes difference in your arrival time. Probably closer to 10 seconds.

No. Stop it. This attitude is consistently responsible for the most dangerous road conditions I see driving in America.

Keep right except to pass. Period.

Everybody traveling the same "maximum speed limit" is a fantasy and rarely exists in reality. There are lots of good reasons for traveling over the speed limit (quickly passing to avoid prolonged travel in close proximity to another car, for example).

Left lane cruisers inevitably lead to long queues in the left lane with empty lanes to the right, which leads to people passing on the right, tailgating, and a host of unpredictable situations that increase the danger on the road much, much more than simple speed (duh, many speed limits are arbitrary and political, not based on some absolute "maximum safe speed", which is a ridiculous notion anyway for roads that carry both sports cars and heavy tractor trailers).

Your prescription creates situations in which it is literally impossible to drive safely (and frankly, I'm sick of finding myself in these dangerous and completely unnecessary situations because of Americans' insane (and sometimes illegal[1]) driving practices...I don't want to race anybody, I just want to get to my destination safely and efficiently). Even choosing to waste your time being the slowest car on the road in the right lane, you end up being put in danger by cars trying to right-lane-pass with dangerous closing speeds up to dangerously close distances.

Keep right except to pass.

1. What you describe is actually illegal in many places: http://www.mit.edu/~jfc/right.html

I'm seeing some interesting POV's on thread (and some road rage issues) but I'm genuinely curious: if the speed limit plays no part in the equation... Let's say I'm traveling ~85 in the left most lane while passing cars in the center lane traveling ~60(posted max speed). Car behind me approaches going 200. Should I be expected to slow down to 60 and force a merge to center lane in order to yeild to the girl going 200 behind me, even while we're both using the lane as a passing lane, she's just passing at a quicker rate? Or can I keep using the passing lane until ample room is available to merge gracefully? At what point if any should someone's blatant disregard for some traffic laws(max speed in this case) lead me to anticipate they won't be following other traffic laws or conventional behaviors, and modify my behavior when interacting with this vehicle?

No, you continue traveling at a safe passing speed until there's space to safely move to the right at let the faster vehicle pass. Just be courteous, basically, and don't play vigilante to "enforce" one rule (speed) while ignoring another (keep right except to pass, and the probably unwritten, pass quickly).

I certainly never said that speed limit plays no part in the equation, but I believe that safe speed for a given combination of vehicle and road and traffic conditions is much more significant than the legislative limit.

Your question works just as well when the example is reversed: if someone is blatantly disregarding lane discipline, why should I expect them to drive safely in any other regard (and why wouldn't I try to put as much distance between me and them as possible)?

200mph vehicle in this case is an asshole if: a) she doesn't slow down and leave a safe distance between you and her in order to let you finish passing b) she otherwise creates a dangerous situation from excessive relative speed, which would probably be the case most of the time if she's going that speed around other traffic

This isn't just a thought experiment. This is genuinely what driving on Autobahn is like. You might think you are overtaking fast in 150kmph but then theres an even crazier guy coming in 200 behind flashing you for going too slow.

Both alternatives are equally common, either you slow down to 60 and let the 200 car pass, or you stay in the overtaking (maybe speed up a bit of of courtesy) and let the 200 guy slow down. In my experience the faster usually has higher priority unless the traffic is very heavy, because by going faster they also disappear faster and don't hog the left lane for as long as someone overtaking at a slower speed.

You should move into the center lane when it is clear to do so and continue in that lane until the need arises to pass someone.

I don't understand why people want to pick fights with other people while driving. A person traveling way too fast is clearly does care about acting dangerously, why the hell would you want to aggravate that person? The best outcome is nothing happens, the worst outcome is your death.

Plus, if you're blocking these people, you're also preventing them from getting a speeding ticket.

> A person traveling way too fast is clearly does care about acting dangerously, why the hell would you want to aggravate that person?

Back before speed cameras, it was useful to aggravate such folk, just a little, so they would speed up. If you gamed it right, you could set up a little convoy, and sit in the middle. At night, you would watch for brake lights ahead, and flashing lights behind.

I agree. That's what I do, just a thought experiment for the above comments who say they get engaged at certain driving behaviors. When I was younger I used scaugh at people who stopped under bridges during inclement weather, I've seen enough accidents that now I just assume they have enough to live for that 20 minutes isn't worth the added risk.

> Your prescription creates situations in which it is literally impossible to drive safely

That is ridiculous. If the vehicle in front of you is traveling 75mph and you want to travel 80mph, it is not impossible for you to drive safely. If the vehicle in front of you seems especially dangerous to be behind, it is still not impossible to drive safely.

I recently got run out of my lane by a semi who swerved in from the left right on top of me in the far right lane. The semi then kept swerving from the right shoulder to the left shoulder erratically. The driver was obviously extremely impaired and re-passing was risky. But it did not make it impossible for me to drive safely.

I drive a two-lane highway everyday that has no reasonable alternate route. The posted speed limit is 55mph. It has double yellow lines along much of its length. I frequently get stuck behind somebody poking along at 45mph or slower. I fully understand how frustrating it is. But that doesn't mean I can't drive safely.

You missed the point.

I'm not talking about situations with two vehicles on the road. What happens with regular traffic is that you get someone driving 75mph in the right lane and another driving 75mph in the left lane, and it's game over for the whole highway. Once a few more vehicles accumulate, there's no safe driving stance. If you stay in the left, a gap develops on the right and people coming up to the jam pass to the right and then unsafely merge in. If you stay on the right, people passing others on the right are closing on you at ridiculous speed, or you're stuck driving a couple of feet away from another vehicle (on your left) that's tailgating and being tailgated and jockeying for position.

Taking the stance of "I'm traveling the speed limit, so I can stay in the left lane as long as I want" ignores the reality that there are other drivers that don't necessarily agree with you. Staying right except to pass minimizes the risk to everyone involved, accommodating both conservative drivers and aggressive or unsafe drivers, and lets everybody coexist. Staying left increases the danger and promotes road rage and other unsafe driving behaviors such as tailgating and right-lane passing.

I think you have missed the point. If two trucks are driving 25mph side by side on a two-lane 75mph freeway, blocking all other traffic, everyone behind them can still drive safely. They don't have to merge in and out between lanes. They don't have to be dangerous.

Too many people take the attitude that such a situation would force them to pass on the shoulder, or to cross the median and drive the wrong way on the other side of the freeway. They have no other option. They were forced to take drastic measure because there was no other choice.

Of course there's another choice. Slow down. Yes, it is frustrating. Yes, it is inconvenient. Yes, yes, it is many undesirable things. But it is an option and it is safer.

And you have also missed the point. You are correct that they don't have to be dangerous in that situation, but what you describe relies on everyone around you driving in a perfectly calm, rational, coordinated manner, which is not what happens in reality. Driving with the expectation that everyone around you is a protocol droid is unrealistic and dangerous.

What I described is what actually happens in that scenario, and unfortunately I only have control over my own actions, not those of "everyone behind them".

If you're deliberately ignoring reality and blocking a line of traffic, telling yourself, "these people don't have to be dangerous", the only things you're accomplishing are self-delusion and making the road more dangerous.

Stay to the right except to pass. It's really not that difficult.

> Keep right except to pass. Period.

You must live somewhere there aren't left exits.

Thank you for posting this because it saved me a lot of typing.

The speed limit is irreverent. It's about relative speed between vehicles. Slower stays to the right. Slightly faster moves left to pass them as they come up behind them and moves right as soon as appropriate afterwards. Apply recursively for the number of lanes.

The "I'm following the law, screw moving over for anyone " attitude when applied in the left lane is exactly the problem that's causing this discussion.

>So people need to chill when the driver in front of them seems to be traveling 2mph below the max speed limit.

This attitude is exactly the problem.

No, that person needs to stop making a rolling road block and move over. Even if I'm going 10+ faster than the next lane to my right I'll move into the next open spot and slow down if there's someone who comes up behind me. It's just basic manners. It's the exact same at 55mph as it is at 85mph.

Just as a thought experiment, imagine a line of 20 vehicles all traveling at a safe distance going the exact same speed--the legal maximum limit.

Does this sound like a utopia to you, or a nightmare? Do you think this would make traffic more optimal, or would it cause untold safety issues?

If somebody in the left lane is traveling at the legal maximum speed and it causes traffic to stack up behind them, does this create the optimal traffic pattern or a safety hazard?

You might point out that most accidents are caused by speed differentials and involve somebody traveling much slower than the rest of traffic. I am still unclear why that would be blamed on the slower driver if everyone else is breaking the law.

What you describe will be safe when all 20 of those cars are self driving. In the meantime, your trying to get 20 people to agree on what is the correct speed. Not only that, but your trying to get 20 people to hold that speed exactly. Invariably what happens is that a couple cars are going to go a little slower up hill (or whatever) and cause yo-yo'ing in the line, which is what causes actual traffic jams.

The result is the guy in the back is going to be speeding up and slowing down around the speed limit. That is extremely annoying. If you haven't been this guy, I can only assume your always the guy in the front cruising in the fast lane causing 19+ people behind you to get angry and want to kill you.

Basically, travel in the right lane, unless your going to put the effort in and pass the person in the right lane within a reasonable time-frame (say in under a minute). Otherwise your just creating more problems. Wishing that isn't true doesn't make the problem go away, its just creating unsafe conditions for other people, who are frequently just trying to drive as safe as possible too.

1. Travel in the rightmost lane except to pass. 2. Pass in the rightmost reasonable lane. 3. When there is not lane available on the left to pass, slow down. 4. Be patient.

Why do we always leave off 3 and 4? The angry posters here are so focused on 1 and 2, but don't seem to acknowledge 3 and 4.

The legal maximum in most states (65mph) is way too slow for ideal conditions. That speed was decided on during an era when cars were far less safe, capable and mechanically sound as they are now.

A typical family sedan in the late 70s had a double-digit top speed. And those "recommended" speed signs that say you should do 35mph around a corner, were actually accurate. If you dared to take a 35mph recommended speed corner at 36mph, your tires would be yelping.

In a modern car, you can take those casually take those corners at 55mph; aggressive cornering starts at double the posted speeds.

It's the same thing with the freeway. Going 80mph in a modern car is probably safer than a 1980s car was doing 65. Today's Civic has the cornering, acceleration and braking performance of a 80s Ferrari.

You'll get fined for driving like that in many European countries, FWIW.

Neither should “speeding”, and if we were enforcing that, then much of the “faster traffic” wouldn't be in the first place, which would greatly reduce the need for “repeated failure to move right” tickets.

Going faster does not improve the speed of traffic. Matter of fact if everyone drove the actual speed limit we wouldn't have such a bad trafffic problem. Our infranstructure was designed to handle a range of speeds, primarily for the timing systems. When people drive outside those limits, that's when traffic patterns become unpredictable and/or unmanageable.

The slow drivers are no different than the fast drivers. Both of you are outliers and aren't easy to calculate in the timing algorithms.

imo, people are selfish when it comes to driving.

> Going faster does not improve the speed of traffic.

The parent never said that.

When you merge on onto the freeway to need to merge at the fucking speed of traffic.

I've been in so many cases stuck behind a clueless oregon driver merging onto I-5(70mph) at 35-40mph while there's a fucking semi bearing down on us 1/4-1/8th of a mile away.

It's goddamn dangerous and putting people in situations where someone is going to get killed.

This behavior makes me a selfish driver, too. Doing 20 under what I’m doing when you hit the end of the ramp? Well, I’m sure as hell not letting you in front of me. If you can’t be bothered to do it right, I can’t be bothered, either.

Which doesn’t help traffic one iota.

You are not obligated to yield to traffic entering from an onramp. You are doing it right by not letting them in front of you.

Not obligated, no, but certainly the polite thing to do. Problem is in Seattle, what was a polite thing to do is now considered an obligation. “No matter how slow I’m going, you have to let me in” has been local culture for the seventeen years I’ve lived here, wrong as it might be. Which means when they’re creeping down the exit ramp, if they end up beside you they won’t even look when they move over. No, I am not exaggerating, they will blindly merge right into you if you don’t watch it.

So, no, one is not obligated to yield, but at some point you’ll do it anyway if you value your passenger side door panels.

I often see people refuse to move from far right lane and refuse to adjust their speed to accommodate drivers merging onto a 3+ lane highway/freeway. I don't know the laws on this one but it seems like a similar level of asshole behavior as staying in the passing lane despite an open lane to the right and faster cars behind. You may have the right of way but an action that's usually very simple for you can alleviate a situation that's usually difficult for the merger.

I often see people refuse to move from far right lane and refuse to adjust their speed to accommodate drivers merging onto a 3+ lane highway/freeway.

In Seattle, often times you can't move out of the lane, traffic's too thick. Which is why the person in the right lane needs to make accomodations to those merging, and the person merging needs to do their part by accelerating to speed of traffic. It's a cooperation, and when the mergers don't do their part it fucks it up for everyone else. I have to disrupt traffic flow because your Mustang can't accelerate to 60mph in a reasonable amount of time. Or I don't let you in, now everyone behind you on the exit ramp gets to slam on their brakes. Given the choice, I'll screw up the exit ramp by not yielding to a slow-poke rather than screw up multiple lanes on I-405 by slamming on my brakes or making a questionable lane change.

On the flip side, if I've accelerated to the speed of traffic flow and you don't want to let me in, I'll remind you that in the Chicago-style school of driving where I got my black belt, the turn signal is a warning and not a request.

EDIT: refuse to adjust their speed to accommodate drivers merging onto a 3+ lane highway/freeway

Wait a minute, what? The general traffic lanes have absolutely no obligation to adjust their speed to accommodate anything coming down the entrance ramp except an emergency vehicle. It is the responsibility of those merging from the entrance ramp to adjust their speed to the flow of traffic. It's in the driver's manual of three states I've lived in, and I'd be surprised if it weren't universal.

In the states I've lived they have no obligation, but it's incredibly helpful to keeping traffic flowing. Often a +/- 5MPH adjustment can help a whole lot. I know it's not mandatory, but if you are aware of a merging vehicle I don't think it's unreasonable to expect someone to be bothered to make a minor adjust to ease the process, and often/most times they don't. That's all I was getting at.

I think we're talking past each other while in mostly agreement. The minor adjustments you talk about, I'm happy to make them in any other area of the country. Like I've been saying, if we all co-operate, we all get home sooner. But in the Seattle area it appears that some are not only taking advantage of that co-operation, they now take it to be their right, alleviating all responsibility on their part. I dunno, maybe you're not anywhere near the Seattle area. Because again, I absolutely agree with what you say for most of the U. S., but maybe one needs to take a trip down WA520 to really get what I'm talking about. This not a case of "there are bad drivers everywhere", as from my POV it is truly unique to this area.

Seems so. It's been a while since I've been to Seattle, but it sure seems like a PITA based on the comments. I truley detest traffic so Cleveland is pretty nice in that regard, 12 miles from downtown = 12 minutes from downtown in most cases ;-)

Nope, they're under no right to let you in, merging traffic yields.

Consider if you were driving a 80klb GVWR semi. If the law required you to yield that could make for an incredibly dangerous situation.

What infuriates me the most is when some hot to trot jagoff passes me at the last second doing 80 freeway a, and then does 40 merging onto freeway b.

If I am out accelerating you in a goddamn ford fiesta which does 0-60 in 11 seconds... well you're probably not driving correctly.

FYI, mid-michigan also sucks for this sort of thing.

edit: Apparently wanting to see data is offensive to drivers on HN. /shrug

It's not just incident numbers, when you get two slow drivers/semis blocking the lanes you have a large number(10+ cars) that tend to tailgate way under safe following distances. I've seen 5 cars all stacked together under one car length on many occasions.

All it takes is one stupid/wrong move and you have a massive pileup.

Most of the speeding accidents I've seen along I-5 tend to be single car unless they cross the divider.

Whenever I see it happen I usually double my following distance and let all the idiots sort it out but most people just tend to put themselves in a position where they don't have an exit if something goes wrong.

I wouldn't be surprised if unsafe following distances is the #1 cause of accidents on the road, regardless of fast/slow speeds.

https://www.motorists.org/blog/speed-limits-slower-safer/ this has some good data. Going too fast or too slow are both dangerous. When merging on the highway, you should be at the speed of traffic to minimize risk.

Agreed completely. Furthermore, imo the worst are slow mergers and lane weavers. On both counts they're entering lanes of traffic at wildly different speeds, which not only creates more traffic but puts everyone at risk.

I don't mind speeding in the left lane if they're at a reasonable speed above their immediate right lane. If they're going 30 over what the one-right lane is going it's quite hazardous. Yet so many people feel justified. Selfish.

The trouble is that the left lane doubles as the diamond lane at rush hour.

Very regional, fwiw. I don't have those in my commutes, for example.

> The slow drivers are no different than the fast drivers

Bingo. You should be pissed at people who don't drive the speed limit.

Change that to median roadway speed, and I'll be on board. Speed limits are too often set by clueless folk for political concerns, rather than by traffic engineers for maximum throughput for a given safety factor.

There should be some allowance for ensuring that the median speeds of adjacent lanes have a good range separation. I can't even count how many times I have seen a tractor-trailer in the left lane at 70 mph passing a tractor-trailer in the right lane at 69 mph, as passenger cars stack up behind them. It creates a dangerous situation that I can only avoid by slowing down or exiting the roadway.

Speed limits should apply only to the rightmost lane, and additional lanes should be between 5 and 15 mph faster than the current speed of traffic in the lane to their right, regardless of their absolute speed. It makes sense, and it would improve traffic flow, but it can't become law because it would be too complicated for cops to enforce.

> I can't even count how many times I have seen a tractor-trailer in the left lane at 70 mph passing a tractor-trailer in the right lane at 69 mph, as passenger cars stack up behind them. It creates a dangerous situation that I can only avoid by slowing down or exiting the roadway.

Presuming the max speed was 70mph, your post epitomizes the real danger. Traffic should not stack up behind vehicles traveling at the maximum allowed speed. Or at least, it should not stack up in a dangerous way. Twenty vehicles stacked up at proper following distances, all traveling 70mph, is actually optimal. Yet you seem to disparage it. You will never achieve optimal traffic flow if the general attitude toward actual optimal patterns is disdain.

If the max speed limit was above 70mph, ignore the preceding paragraph.

> proper following distances, all traveling 70mph

Hi. Welcome to Earth. It looks like you missed orientation.

Humans drive at different speeds, and usually follow too closely. We have recognized this species-wide problem, and are currently trying to build driving robots that will reduce the impact. Until they are ready, every collision you may see on the road was likely caused by a human driving non-optimally.

Therefore, rational drivers must presume that the other vehicles on the road may possibly behave irrationally, and therefore must introduce a safety margin for the incorrect behavior of other drivers in addition to the margin defined by their own capabilities.

Show me a train of 20 cars moving at 70 mph with less than 1 second of separation between them, and I'm just going to ease off the accelerator, and maybe look for my next rest stop, until those lunatics are far enough ahead that I'll possibly learn about their 6-vehicle pile-up early enough to detour around it. The only way that is optimal is if there are zero humans in it.

Welcome to the 21st century. Times have changed. Driving robots are now a reality. Adaptive cruise is a real thing, and the most well-known adaptive cruise systems slow down to adjust to traffic speeds, not speed up and pass.

In fact, the most well known system made an adjustment some time ago that it would no longer exceed the legal speed limit.

> rational drivers must presume that the other vehicles on the road may possibly behave irrationally, and therefore must introduce a safety margin for the incorrect behavior of other drivers in addition to the margin defined by their own capabilities.

Exactly. So slow down. Join the train of cars instead of trying to pass them. Maintain a safe distance and don't worry that you will be late. You won't. 20 cars driving 70mph is better than 10 cars driving 80, one driving 85, five driving 75, two driving 90, and two driving 70. It is better for all of those cars, not just the two driving 70. They will all be safer, and they will all arrive at their destinations within 60 seconds of when they would have.

Humans are not machines, of course. But they can work on one important attribute with which every automated vehicle should be programmed: patience. In a world where human drivers increasingly share the road with robots, human patience must adapt.

"Proper following distances" absolutely does not mean "with less than 1 second of separation between them"!

"Proper following distances" means "you can react and stop in time to prevent a collision if the car in front of you brakes very hard".

Ripped from a wiki article on the topic:


The United States National Safety Council suggests that a three-second rule—with increases of one second per factor of driving difficulty—is more appropriate. Factors that make driving more difficult include poor lighting conditions (dawn and dusk are the most common); inclement weather (ice, rain, snow, fog, etc.), adverse traffic mix (heavy vehicles, slow vehicles, impaired drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.), and personal condition (fatigue, sleepiness, drug-related loss of response time, distracting thoughts, etc.). For example, a fatigued driver piloting a car in rainy weather at dusk would do well to observe a six-second following distance, rather than the basic three-second gap."

I am describing what people actually do, not what they should do. I think everybody knows that they shouldn't tailgate, but they just do it anyway, because "F U get out of my way".

> because it would be too complicated for cops to enforce.

The only reason speed limits get so much focus is that they are so easy to enforce.

Because of that, they have essentially become a direct-to-police tax, rather than something useful.

We have traffic due to lack of scientific understanding. http://www.science20.com/gerhard_adam/driving_traffic_and_tw...

Traffic = Flow Rate (How many cars pass per minute pass a specific point)

Traffic Solution is maintain proper distance. 2 seconds in good weather and 4 seconds when hazardous or 10 seconds when extremely unsafe weather/conditions.

When people increase the distance between cars during traffic causes the traffic behind to eventually come to a stop.

Thats why at any given speed, there is a maximum capacity of any road that when surpassed causes traffic, i.e. people speeding up and slowing down due to differences in each other's acceleration. This is unavoidable and the only solutions involve increasing everyone's speed, reducing # of vehicles, or making the road bigger.

Traffic happens when distances are increased. Someone sees a slight slow down and they then slow down and give 20 seconds of space (I have seen cars and trucks give 200+ feet of distance for some odd reason. Then the flow is cut down to 10 cars a minute instead of 120.

Yes, but you can't fix that. And the faster you go, the longer it takes to stop (to the power of 2). Rule of thumb I've read is 1 car length for every 10mph to be able to stop in time in case if accident up ahead.

Obviously safety gets triaged with need to get somewhere in a reasonable amount of time, but at a certain point you hit a maximum and since we can't drive in unison, there will be a rubber banding effect.

You can't expect people to go the same, or similar speeds.

There will always be trucks going slower, and always people who feel comfortable at much higher speeds.

Going different speeds is what multiple lanes are for.

The problem is that multiple lanes lose their value when two cars are driving side-by-side at the same speed. If the left car speeds up for a short period, then moves to the right, traffic will be able to circulate, creating more distance between cars, and fewer instances of significant speed difference in a close range over a period of time.

The problem is that speed itself is quantifiable, so police focus on it way more than is helpful. To legitimize speed tickets, there have been years of propaganda teaching people that slower = better, so those who want to drive slow feel vindicated, and those who understand traffic flow are frustrated.

> most native Oregonians would be fine constantly because they drive insanely slow

And this is why they do not want you to drive slow. The difference of speed between cars is what causes accidents. This is why speed limits are raised based on 90th percentile speeds. And this is why everyone in California drives 80 in 65, and CHP are apparently OK with that.

> why everyone in California drives 80 in 65, and CHP are apparently OK with that.

Absolutely untrue. My wife was ticketed by the CHP for driving at 80 on an empty I5 early in the morning. There was no traffic and she was the only other car on that stretch of the I5 at that time.

We seriously considered figting the ticket but I was unable to collect any data to prove that 90 percentile of the traffic drives at 80 although that's my own observation.

The ticket was cited using PACING and the officer did not have a recently calibrated odometer which gave us an upperhand but that would not be enough to dismiss the case.

We also researched and found out that the AAA lobbies to keep statutory speed limits down at 65 wherever a higher speed is proposed.

We then considered the pros of paying $500 for a ticket and traffic school vs paying thousands in insurance premiums for the next few years.

We ended up paying $500.

65 is the statutory speed limit barring higher prima facie limits. Any higher speed is illegal. Not getting a ticket while driving at 80 does not mean the CHP is OK with it, just that there are far more drivers than CHP officers.

PS: If anyone knows how to strike a deal with the prosecutor/DA's office without getting an attorney involved for trivial traffic tickets like this, I am all ears.

If you find the CHP treatment to be unfair, you should try visiting anywhere else in the country. When I first moved to CA, I could't help but laugh whenever someone said they got a ticket and they were 'barely even speeding' when they were going 85 in a 65. It's so much more pleasant here in CA. Hell, I've been here for 15 years and never even been pulled over. You've really gotta have bad luck to catch the attention of the CHP -- for better or worse.

The ticket was cited using PACING and the officer did not have a recently calibrated odometer which gave us an upperhand but that would not be enough to dismiss the case.

For future reference, that would have been enough to get the ticket dismissed. Tickets must be based on calibrated range speedometers, not the officer's odometer.

Also, the DA generally doesn't negotiate traffic tickets. It's not worth their time. Simply contest the ticket, since the worst case scenario is you get the same punishment you would have gotten if you hadn't fought the ticket.

> For future reference, that would have been enough to get the ticket dismissed. Tickets must be based on calibrated range speedometers, not the officer's odometer.

That is incorrect. PACING (officer's odometer) is accepted by the court. If you can provide any case/regulation that refutes this, I will pay you money for the lead.

> since the worst case scenario is you get the same punishment you would have gotten if you hadn't fought the ticket.

Again, that is incorrect. Traffic school can be refused by the judge if defendant contests the ticket

If you can provide any case/regulation that refutes this, I will pay you money for the lead.

Here is a case that even with citing Wozniak (http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/3d/19...), it clearly states that the court has discretion to allow or deny traffic school and is under no obligation to disclose the reasons why People v. Schindler, 20 Cal. App. 4th 431 - Cal: Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate Dist., 4th Div (http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ca-court-of-appeal/1770113.html, http://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/4th/2...) Under section 42005, the court may order traffic school. Although the court may not arbitrarily refuse to entertain a request for traffic school merely because a defendant elects to plead not guilty (People v. Wozniak (1987) 197 Cal. App.3d Supp. 43 [243 Cal. Rptr. 686]; People v. Enochs (1976) 62 Cal. App.3d Supp. 42 [133 Cal. Rptr. 363]), the court otherwise has discretion to grant or not grant traffic school for a traffic violation. (People v. Levinson (1984) 155 Cal. App.3d Supp. 13, 21 [203 Cal. Rptr. 426].)[2] Nothing in section 42005 requires the court to state its reasons for granting or rejecting traffic school.

When I turn up at court, I am informed. I don't believe in crossing fingers, working off "intuition" or "hoping that the officer does not show up"

Rely on the assumption that the prosecutor, judge, and officer do not care about nailing you, specifically, as much as they care about just doing their job and going home. If you make your case seem like more work for them, or if it will end up costing them money to prosecute, they will very likely drop it, even if you are guilty as sin. If I could make 100 deals in the same time it takes to prepare for one trial, I'd throw the trial case on the floor, too.

All the good traffic-ticket lawyers will know all the tricks for your state, and some of them are kind enough to give away those tactics for free, essentially as stealth advertising for those who would rather pay the money to ensure a professional will do it correctly. But I'm not a lawyer and don't get tickets, so...

At first I misread you last sentence as "but I'm a lawyer so I don't get tickets" and it seemed fitting

> Simply contest the ticket, since the worst case scenario is you get the same punishment you would have gotten if you hadn't fought the ticket.

Wrong; actual penalties for traffic offenses can be greater (both in monetary value and may add license suspension) than the fine assigned with a ticket (which is a mixture of bail applied for certain modes of contest and a plea bargain offer if you choose to plead guilty.)

Plus, whether or not the base fine is higher, you can also be assessed court costs.

75-80 in a 65 (or even 55) is common in the Chicago area too, except in traffic jams. If you're not going at least 70 when you merge onto the highway, you're gonna get run down.

I think the cops are fine with it, since it provides a perfect pretext for a traffic stop if they want you for some other reason.

Chicago's freeways have two speeds, 35 and 80, and they switch between the two in 100 yards or less..

> The difference of speed between cars is what causes accidents.

A cause, but most definitely not the cause. There's the not-so-trivial factors of reaction time (separation / speed) and breaking distance (proportional to the square of the speed) too. And many other factors too, of course.

If the voting body has the option to vote people into office who will overhaul the state government or vote in amendments to that effect, the illegal actions of the state is 100% the citizens' responsibility. Everyone in the state who is able to vote should be collectively punished severely to give them an incentive to vote to change their government.

> force you to pay thousands to lawyers

From the article:

> but Järlström and his attorneys from the Institute for Justice

IFJ is a non-profit (that has received Charity Navigator's 4-star rating for 16 years in a row)[1]. That's not to say that what Oregon has done here is right (not by any means) but Järlström surely hasn't paid IFJ anything.

[1] http://ij.org/ij-receives-charity-navigators-highest-rating-...

The best tool in any court case is time.

Seriously, this. It is such bs, since most lawyers are incentivized to take as much time as necessary since they work on an hourly basis.

You can’t change the underlying economics of a market by changing your billing model. All the billing model does is change the risk allocation between the parties. Court cases take a long time because each judge handles hundreds of cases (and civil cases take a back seat to criminal cases). Briefing on a motion, for example, might be done over a few weeks. Then the parties just sit and wait possibly for months for a decision. Trial calanders are booked years in advance.

Maybe not in the legal field, but the counter example is online advertising (ppc).

The better question is why are there not more judges?

Everything is also bound by time.Unfortunately in the legal system there is just no incentive to go fast.

Ad agencies generally use a variety of fee structures: https://yourbusiness.azcentral.com/advertising-agency-fee-st.... If you step back one level of abstraction, I'm not sure pay-per-click nets advertises more ad revenue than other billing models would, it's just an easy way to calculate things. And in the legal field, fixed fee or hybrid fee structures are very common. In practice, those options aren't cheaper than just negotiating for a discount on hourly rates; they just allocate the risks over/under-estimation differently.

Also, plaintiffs have huge incentives to move cases along quickly, because very often some or all of their compensation is tied to the outcome. But cases with contingency lawyers who aren't getting paid until the client gets paid don't move any more quickly than other kinds of cases.

As for why there are not more judges: what do you think of this proposal to create a whole bunch of new judgeships? https://thinkprogress.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/calabre....

I checked out the link you shared. That was an extremely in-depth read. I will have to get back to you on the judgeships, because I do not really comprehend it that well after my first read.

I wanted to ask you about this and why it is not more known to the common person >In addition to the problem of unpublished opinions sketched above, another scandal plagues the administration of justice litigants in America face today – the problem of administrative law judges (ALJs).

I'm willing to bet that judges, and the other people that work with them, and the places in which they work, are all really really fucking expensive. I'd imagine that's hard to sell to voters.

How long has this been the case? Was it ever thus?

Why don't we just hire more judges?

The lawyers in this specific case work for a non-profit (Institute for Justice) that did not bill Järlström a single dollar.


Umm no. Not all lawyers. They do take time because they want to win. And sometimes they have to be sure as some cases can be complicated.

Ummm unless lawyers somehow have evolved different brains than the rest of us, they, too, prefer to make more money vs less. So if they are billing hourly, then yes they all do want to spend more time. Now, they might fight against that urge (E.g. believing that spending less time on Client A will improve their reputation and lead to more clients) but your statement is naive re how incentives work

Just because you bill a client hourly doesn't mean it's in your best interest to drag things on. This is true across all professions, not just legal.

The only thing hourly billing does is shift the risk to the client.

Lawyers in criminal cases generally work on a fixed fee basis, so working needless hours on one client means less work they can do on other clients. Celebrity lawyers charge hourly, but that is because their clients are so much more demanding that they generally only work on a single client's case at a time.

Lawyers in tort cases bill on a contingency basis, so working more does not change their payout--success is all that matters.

Lawyers in transactional cases usually bill hourly, because when you're talking about multi-million or multi-billion dollar transactions, the few thousand you spend on the lawyers and accountants is a rounding error compared to what you spend on the airfare for the executives negotiating the deal.

Unsurprisingly, exceeding one's authority is not a crime.

It's ludicrous that the word "engineer" was defined to be considered "authority".

If you understand the nuances of a subject, you likely want to explain why you do, so that your thoughts aren't totally disregarded.

The problem is that the state wanted to disregard his (or anyone's) thoughts, so they defined "engineer" to carry authority, and levied a fine for anyone who sought to use the word.

This is a reasonable thing to do for professions like Medical Doctor, or EMT, where your title demands specific education. It is not reasonable for ambiguous words like "engineer".

He's probably just done with the whole thing at this point, but I suppose he'd have to counter-sue to recover the money? You'd think it would be an easy case— he was unfairly attacked and incurred costs as a result, therefore the entity doing the attacking needs to pony up.

The suit isn't about money. It's about having the law removed as being unconstitutional.

Right, and he "won" in the sense that they apologized for at least this particular instance and refunded the fine. But the GP is saying that it's really a loss because of all the time and money he had to spend fighting it, which I'm saying could probably be recovered with a lawsuit of his own.

A number of people in this thread are accepting the position that "engineer" is defined by the State of Oregon to only mean Professional Engineer. Let's do a consistency check. Here is a job posting for an "engineer" by the State of Oregon, which is not for a PE position: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/oregon/jobs/1902737/s...

For contrast, here is a job opening for the State of Oregon for a PE: https://www.governmentjobs.com/careers/oregon/jobs/1891379/s...

I hate hearing tales of how public bodies waste taxpayers money fighting cases like this instead of focussing on the actual issues themselves. Even if the public body had done nothing in this case it would have been better than suing him.

Admitting failure is extremely hard for any human, wether it is such cases or infrastructure projects that took decades of planning and discussion: no one wants to admit that they followed the wrong path.

I can't agree with this more. It really holds us back (since the beginning). From school boards, local government, and even HOAs. Humans are so prideful, they rather find ways to defend their wrong decision than fix the underlying issue.

I don't know that it's all pride. I don't have much of a problem admitting mistakes amongst friends and most co-workers, but I've definitely worked with a few people you could never admit failure to. They were either the type of people who felt everything needed to have someone to blame and who would be punished for the failure, or people who could use any mistake as ammunition in office politics.

The government here may have refused to back down out of fear of setting a precedent that would be used in other cases where they were actually in the right

Your last sentence just makes the worst excuse ever. Doing wrong to be able to do right in other cases...

Oh it's not an excuse for what they did at all. I was just pointing out that pride might not be why they did this

This is a pretty great way to stifle innovation and one of the most blatantly authoritarian programs I have seen. They are essentially saying that no one is allowed to advance technology within their state unless they adhere to their arbitrary rules including passing a test and "a work record of four years or more of technical work or engineering work under the supervision and control of a professional engineer." 4 years before you are even allowed to publicly discuss engineering! Last time I checked math and physics work the same regardless on an internship.

It's how totalitarians roll. You can't have upward mobility, you can't have a level playing field where people can take on the state and win with common sense. We need that, but it leaves the autocrats out of a job.

I understand this for bridge building, not for public discussion.

they never used to at the turn of the 19th/20th century. then innovative bridges collapsed killing lots of people. then they ensured minimum standards. makes sense for bridges/tunnels etc but it's not a free speech thing. kudos to the guy for battling it out.

I'm interested in this because I know PE exams exist and there are licensing bodies for engineers. But what I've heard from most people is that they are a waste of time and money for someone holding an engineering degree unless you are the person who rubber stamps things at the end.

Does someone who knows more about professional engineering know if this law in Oregon is uncommon?

Beyond a free speech argument, it seems like the law is a bit flawed considering other related fields like science, math, and software may not have licensing.

Also, it goes as far as saying someone can't put "engineer" on their resume with solely a degree. Seems very far off the norm.

Every time wrongdoing by an 'engineer' comes up on HN, there's a chorus of voices excusing it.

IMO, the primary difference between the licensed engineer and the unlicensed engineer is responsibility. The person who signs off on the safety of a project does not get to pass the buck. They have to be willing to say 'no' to their client or their employer, even if it comes at a personal financial cost.

The rewards for taking on that additional responsibility are fairly minor. You have a little more job security than those without it and you might enjoy a small pay bump. I guess in Oregon you also used to get a somewhat exclusive job title.

You're right that if you have the license but don't have the responsibility, it's a little pointless.

> Does someone who knows more about professional engineering know if this law in Oregon is uncommon?

Most every state in the USA has some sort of Professional Engineering law.

But I think there are only one or two states in the US where generic Engineer is a protected title (as opposed to e.g. "Civil Engineer"). So in most of the USA, you can call yourself a "Sales Engineer" and not worry about anyone coming after you.

But it's definitely a much more wide-spread practice in other parts of the world. And even applies to software.

E.g., Microsoft was sued in Canada for referring to holders of one of their technician certifications ("Microsoft Certified (TM)(R)") as engineers.

I am a licensed engineer in Montana and can say that we have a similar law as Oregon. The law is essentially states that one cannot claim to be or practice engineering without proper licensing. One question that often comes up is, "how can a college grad work as an engineer without calling themselves an engineer?" This is accomplished by registering as an Engineering Intern (EI). Until I got my PE, my title was Engineering Technician.

It is the same thing in Canada. "Engineer" is a protected term so that people can trust that when someone calls themselves an engineer, or does "engineering work", offering services to the public, they can trust that means something.

One difference is that the profession is 'Self Regulating', meaning Professional Engineers Ontario is a non-governmental body made up of Professional Engineers that is trusted by the government to manage the profession. The Quebec version of this organization, Ordre des ingénieurs du Québec, was put under "trusteeship of the provincial government" when the government lost that trust after some infrastructure accidents [0].

The question of what constitutes "engineering work" is well defined in the Professional Engineers Act (Ontario) and would probably cover a lot of what you mentioned as 'science, math, software' not having licensing. So according to Professional Engineers Ontario, some of the types of work that those types of people could produce could require the sign-off of a Professional Engineer if it falls under the definition of "engineering work" by the PEO:

[1] Under the Professional Engineers Act, the “practice of professional engineering” means “any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or the managing of any such act”.

To determine whether you are practising professional engineering, ask yourself three questions:

Are you planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising, or managing any of these acts? Are engineering principles required to carry out the act? Does the act concern the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment?

As a licensed engineer in Ontario, I'm to display my licence at my place of work. I also keep another image close by to make sure we all remember not to take ourselves too seriously.


[0] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/quebec-engineers-regu... [1] http://www.peo.on.ca/index.php?ci_id=1848&la_id=1

The problem I see with that law, and I believe it is possibly the same issue in the U.S. with many state laws is that, as well defined as it is, if I mix and match the terms from the definition then someone with an economics degree from an engineering school needs a professional license to do their own taxes...

"The practice of professional engineering means... any act of evaluating that requires application of engineering principles... and concerns economic interests."

It's not quite a bullet-proof concept. I doubt the U.S. Supreme Court is going to take this issue on at the time. But if I had a background in engineering and law and considered these laws in context, they seem a bit stupid. Most B.S. engineering graduates aren't professionally licensed but obviously are qualified to work and designate themselves as some type of engineer, at least on LinkedIn.

In any case, it seems the term to be protected is "Professional Engineer" or "Licensed Engineer" and not the generic title itself, and the scope should be limited by specifying what jobs require that license instead of a blanket statement. For example, "all bridges on public roads require work to be certified by a professional licensed engineer."


In the earlier discussion, there was some debate about whether measuring the hypotenuse of a triangle is legal in public in Oregon.

> any act of planning, designing, composing, evaluating, advising, reporting, directing or supervising that requires the application of engineering principles and concerns the safeguarding of life, health, property, economic interests, the public welfare or the environment, or the managing of any such act

In plain language, doesn't this pretty much cover everything? A CFO, or even just an accountant or bookkeeper is probably using things (accounting software) that "requires the application of engineering principles" and "concerns the safeguarding of ... property, economic interests".

I guess it's all moot until a lawyer argues, and a court accepts, reasoning along these lines.

ugh windows 7. real engineers use templeOS

It seems reasonable to me, in so far as projects for building structures (private and public), roads, bridges, dams, etc. are public safety issues. They should have plans which have been approved by someone who has been certified as having a professional level of competence.

These are very popular laws in the US with every state having some level of certification requirement for certain professions.


Including FFS Estate Agents (Relators)

> Including FFS Estate Agents (Relators)

Yes, because before regulation buying and selling real estate was rife with scams, ripoffs, blatantly false advertising, and misapropriation.

These regulations don't come out of nowhere. I know that there is some residual teenage rebellion against rules, and there is without a doubt some downside and friction associated with imperfect regulation and enforcement. The alternative, though, is not better than the present.

We really do not want to live in the completely unregulated society that many tech-lad libertarians think would be Nirvana. It would be, instead, the hell we got rid of.

we don't have those problems in the UK where Estate Agents are not regulated and fixed fees ala purple bricks are getting popular

That's an interesting observation. I do wonder if there isn't some congruent regulatory mechanism keeping things in line.

Out of curiosity, what would a typical set of transaction fees be for buying and selling a property? In my area (US/TX) it is nominally a 3% fee to the agent plus no more than 2% of the transaction for all other costs including financing, title insurance, etc.

Between 1.3 and 1.8 % plus VAT at 20% plus £400/500 for a survey. Other costs vary by what mortgage you get but I add 1 to 2K.

Plus stamp duty You can claim a discount (relief) so you don’t pay any tax up to £300,000 and 5% on the portion from £300,001 to £500,000.

seems high but property taxes are tiny when compared to the USA

This is a clear case of using "well intentioned" laws to silence free speech. This supports the libertarian idea that we should reduce the size of government and regulation if possible, because given long enough and enough bureaucrats, fallible humans will exploit whatever mechanisms are available to them. People don't like criticism, especially when the criticism is of their work/policies and potentially threatens their livelihood, so giving them a way to easily stop critics is a bad idea.

> This supports the libertarian idea that we should reduce the size of government and regulation if possible, because given long enough and enough bureaucrats, fallible humans will exploit whatever mechanisms are available to them

OTOH a perfectly libertarian system is ripe for the exploitation of fallible humans. Anyway there's a case for moderation here. I don't think shrinking the government to some ineffectual, microscopic or nonexistent size will accomplish what libertarians would hope for. Likewise having an omnipresent behemoth that controls every aspect of life isn't good either.

I think it's about time we stop throwing the baby out with the bath water when libertarian ideology comes up.

Looking at it simply, is there a possible set of rules that reduces waste, increases efficiency of constrained resources, and reduce exploitation from within the system? Libertarian ideologues suggest that there exists such a set of such rules, and it's a dramatically smaller set than we currently have. In order to move towards that smaller ideal set, we need a ideological shift in America -- we need to admit we suck. We suck at things, and some things that we think are okay now will suck soon. American culture sells the opposite: you're great, and it's poisonous. We need to acknowledge when others are doing better than us. I think we currently suck at it because the system is working as intended: corruption for sale. I don't think that's a sustainable system for the American people. It's about time we upgraded our "infrastructure."

We need to realign our government, giving it back to those that they are supposed to be serving in the first place: the citizens. Let's start by acknowledging that Libertarians are trying to free us from that which the government has no business being involved, thus reducing waste, increasing the efficiency of constraints, and reducing opportunity for exploitation. It is not about trying to create loop holes for exploitation. It's about shifting the meta away from corruption.

> a perfectly libertarian system is ripe for the exploitation of fallible humans.

That's why I've yet to meet a poor libertarian.

> if possible

Land of the Free*

* must pay applicable fees to be licensed for practicing freedom

Pay to play.

Pay more to win.

I have been following this story for quite some time and I would like to point a major item that this article misled the reader about. First off, the State Board did not censor what he was saying, they asked him to stop representing himself as an engineer. Järlström initially sent his analysis to the State Board with a letter in-which he referred to himself as an engineer. The Board Responded by requesting that he refrain from calling himself an engineer. After Järlström continued to call himself an engineer, the Board decided to fine him.

Järlström is and was allowed to discuss his analysis all he wanted, however, he is not allowed to call himself an engineer in such a was as to imply that he is a traffic or transportation engineer.

Full disclosure, I am a registered professional traffic engineer. As such, I feel that registration is very important and serves to protect the public at large from people producing work with little to no relevant experience.

Here is an article that was previously posted on HN which includes many of the documents involved in this case. https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/vvapy4/man-fined-...

>he is not allowed to call himself an engineer in such a was as to imply that he is a traffic or transportation engineer.

He never claimed to be a traffic or transportation engineer, in fact the fine cited him for use of the phrase "electronics engineer." He is an EE: He has an electrical engineering degree from his home country (Sweden) and he has worked as an electrical engineer for decades.

>I am a registered professional traffic engineer. As such, I feel that registration is very important and serves to protect the public at large from people producing work with little to no relevant experience.

"PE" (professional engineer) does have a legal distinction in the jurisdiction of Oregon, but he never claimed to be a registered PE in the state of Oregon. "Engineer" is not a legal distinction. He never made any false declarations about his credentials.

>the State Board did not censor what he was saying, they asked him to stop representing himself as an engineer.

They "asked him" by issuing a $500 fine in response to his letter for committing the apparent crime of sending a letter in which he (factually) stated that he is an engineer. Telling citizens "you are not allowed to write a letter to the government in which you use the word 'engineer' (a term with no legal distinctions) when describing yourself" sounds like censorship to me.

1> In his initial correspondence with the Board he stated "...I’m already doing thiskind of work..." This was the statement that the board later used as justification for his claim to be an engineer.

2> The practice of engineering is defined in ORS 672.005(1) [1]

3> In the initial communications the board advised him that he should not use the title engineer or refer to himself as an engineer. To which he agreed. Later, he again referred to himself as an engineer.

I would also like to point out that engineering is not a regulated profession in Sweden. No licensure, registration, or certification is offered or required to practice engineering in Sweden. He may very well be qualified and have the knowledge, that doesn't mean he can practice in the US without proper registration.

Please read through the documents that are included with the Motherboard article that I linked in my parent post. All of these points are clearly stated along with copies of the conversations.

[1] https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/ors/ors672.html

Why are you assuming that we are not reading the documents?

In the initial September 3, 2014 email where Järlström says he is doing related work, he specifies that his engineering degree is Swedish and that his expertise is in motional feedback of powered speakers. He is anything but misleading.

I am an engineer. I am not a "registered professional traffic engineer". I am a software engineer. If I wrote a paper on traffic signaling (which is also huge in software) I should be able to call myself an engineer - yes I won't call myself a "registered professional traffic engineer".

As long as you are clearly stating that you are a software engineer and not purporting to have expertise in traffic engineering, I agree with you.

If Järlström had actually referred to himself as a traffic engineer then both the state and you would have a point. But he didn't. He said he had an engineering degree which he has and he stated that he was doing work related to the problem which he was.

Järlström did not misrepresent himself.

Titles can be contextual. I do not refer to myself (a PhD) as a doctor in a hospital because others could incorrectly think I was a physician. This problem is especially vexing for nurses with PhDs.

A Medical Doctor must have specific training to not harm their patients.

An Engineer designs functional things.

No reasonable person is going to think that him calling himself an "Electrical Engineer", which he is, construes that he had specific training in designing traffic infrastructure that doesn't accidentally harm people.

Traffic infrastructure is not a nuanced topic full of dangerous pitfalls.

He was claiming that he had a background in engineering that is applicable to the subject, so that his viewpoint would not be cast aside. The state wanted to ignore his viewpoint, so they fined him.

I very much disagree with you. While traffic engineering failures may not be as acute as a medical doctor, the effects can be much more expensive and far reaching. For example, let us say that a road has a design speed of 55 mph. That would dictate the maximum curvature of the horizontal alignment. If an engineer chooses to ignore this design speed and makes the corner too tight, there will likely be a crash cluster at this location. The cost to mitigate that kind of mistake could be very expensive and possibly cost multiple lives.

Another more extreme, yet more common, example is structural engineering. While the basics of structural engineering are relatively simple the consequences of failure are very high. If a multi-story structure collapses, a lot of people will be injured or killed. That is why it is important to know more than just the basics of what goes into structural engineering.

I am not trying to down play the importance of training for medical doctors. I am trying to highlight that engineers need to have training and a regulatory board that is used to track and prove that the training has been completed to an acceptable level. If any yahoo is able to say, "I am an engineer, trust me," how do you prove his credentials? Just like with a medical doctor, you would look up his certification.

> Another more extreme, yet more common, example is structural engineering.

We aren't even talking about structural engineering here. We are talking about an electrical engineer submitting comments regarding traffic.

The only reason these are related is the word "engineer", which is ambiguous.

The contents of this man's letter are not physically acting upon traffic. They were submitted to be considered by a group of "licensed" traffic engineers.

The subject does not require the decade of specific education that is required by a medical doctor, or even months of training that is required by an EMT.

It's about a traffic light camera, which an electrical engineer would be able to understand significantly better than a layman, making the fact that he is an electrical engineer important to the subject.

The state fined him for his claim of being an engineer, defining the word by its context (traffic lights) instead of by its adjective (electrical).

The state abused this notion to delegitimize his words, and to disincentivize him commenting in the first place.

> It's about a traffic light camera, which an electrical engineer would be able to understand significantly better than a layman

I would go further and say that as a EE working in the field he would understand this issue better than a traffic engineer would.

By defining a "traffic engineer" as a title that demands license, we prevent discussion from other people.

I am very critical of the idea that a license should be required to discuss the traffic system that we all interact with.

There is nothing preventing you from talking about traffic systems. There are, however, laws preventing you from claiming to be an engineer with expertise in the subject in a public forum.

A man claimed to be an "electrical engineer", and was fined for doing so, because the word "engineer" was taken in context to mean "traffic engineer", which is a licensed title.

The issue I take to this is that you must have a recognized title to claim knowledge.

This has two problems:

1. People outside of a group of recognition have unnecessary difficulty giving input. This degrades the "public" aspect of the forum.

2. Common words like "engineer" are redefined to have more authority than they do outside the forum. This means that those with broad engineering expertise and knowledge that is applicable to the subject are considered to not have any applicable knowledge or expertise.

It may be reasonable to require credentials from someone who is doing the engineering, or someone who makes final decisions.

It is not reasonable to require credentials from everyone who uses a noun to describe him or herself.

If you want credentials from someone who claims to be an engineer, then you can ask for them. Credentials need not be assumed.

There are positions like MD, EMT, Police Officer, etc. that do imply credentials. These titles inherently require trust and respect, so claiming one without credentials is fraudulent. "Engineer" does not fit into that category.

Electrical Engineer is also a licensed profession.

For good reasons.

You don't want someone to wire your house improperly, because non-trivial things like kinked cables can end up starting fires later on.

To say that you are an electrical engineer does not carry weight.

To say you can do electrical work because you are an electrical engineer implies that you have credentials. This is because "can" changes the context of the statement. "can" implies authority.

There is such thing as an unlicensed electrical engineer. That is because "electrical engineer" alone does not imply authority.

There are positions that do imply authority, like MD, EMT, Police Officer, and electrical engineer is not one of them.

Electrical engineers do not wire houses. Electricians (a distinct profession, also licensed) wire houses. Similar to how chemical engineers are distinct from plumbers.

I'm done here, this is not going anywhere productive or enlightening.

> how do you prove his credentials?

You don't.

"Engineer" is not broadly considered a claim of authority. It is a claim of knowledge.

If I am required to provide credentials whenever I say "engineer", then how, as someone without credentials, am I supposed to express my background?

I'll simply choose another word, which will have the exact meaning that "engineer" currently does. Why? Because you redefined the word.

The word "engineer" is perfectly adequate in its current state.

If you really want to know whether you can trust an engineer in his or her capacity, you will then ask for some credentials, like a degree or state-sponsored license. The fact that anyone can use the word "engineer" to describe him or herself does not in any way detract from that.

The reason that MD, EMT, or police officer are different is that every individual who claims that title is treated with authority.

>> "Engineer" is not broadly considered a claim of authority. It is a claim of knowledge.

Can you explain what you mean by that?

The reason why I ask is this - before the process was simplified in Canada, you were required to have your passport application signed by an accredited professional guarantor like a medical doctor, accountant, police officer, engineer (PEng), etc who had known you for a minimum period of time.

So in this specific context, an engineer is a special class of person in society (because of the professional body he/she is a member of).

This misses my point. My point is that while I am a "doctor" I am not a physician, and that even though I use the title in other places it's prudent to be very careful about it in a medical setting because it could be misconstrued. Perhaps it would be prudent to demonstrate similar care when addressing the government organization that cares very much about licensing engineers while one is using the industrial exemption.

> Perhaps it would be prudent to demonstrate similar care when addressing the government organization that cares very much about licensing engineers.

I disagree.

In this scenario, the state has redefined the meaning of "engineer" in a way that is very detrimental.

A Medical Doctor or physician implies with his or her title, authority to practice.

The word "engineer" does not carry this implication, nor should it.

When I tell people that I am a "Software Engineer", I am expressing years of self-education, nuanced understanding, etc. This title is not misconstrued as having a degree or license, of which I have neither. If I want to claim to have a degree, I will be explicit about it.

Calling myself an "engineer" is a very useful way to express the complicated body of knowledge that I possess. If the word suddenly implies credentials, of which I do not possess, I am suddenly considered a fraud.

TL;DR You can consider me a fraud by redefining what an "engineer" is, but that doesn't make me one, so please don't redefine engineer. That does not help discourse.

> In this scenario, the state has redefined the meaning of "engineer" in a way that is very detrimental.

This is backwards from my perspective. Engineering has long been a licensed profession. It is only recently that a group of people have chosen, for some reason beyond me, to call themselves "software engineers" and avail themselves of the industrial exemption. I'm not a fan but the ship has sailed on that one.

> A Medical Doctor or physician implies with his or her title, authority to practice.

There are many MDs and DOs that are not licensed by their state boards and they too have to take care with misrepresenting themselves as physicians licensed to practice. The same is true of people using the industrial exemption to practice engineering, one cannot use the industrial exemption to practice before the public.

TL;DR from my perspective (PhD in engineering but not an engineer) there is a newer group people who are attempting to redefine what "engineer" means as a profession, and that redefinition relaxes education, experience, and professional conduct standards by quite a bit. I realize that like the Browncoats of Firefly I am on the losing side, and also like the Browncoats I don't like it.

The problem is that traffic lights are not a complicated nuanced subject where there is one small set of correct methods, and a large subset of dangerous methods.

Titles like "Medical Doctor" or "EMT" carry authority, because they require specific training, so that you know how not to kill someone while you are trying to help them. For these professions, it is necessary for the state to demand a set of requirements from those who carry those titles.

Saying someone must be specific about what kind of engineer they purport to be is quite unreasonable, and unnecessary.

In this case, the state created the "title" so that they could ignore anyone who didn't pay for the title. Since it is totally normal to call oneself an "engineer" without worrying about that title carrying a dangerous authority, it was unexpected, and malicious for the state to redefine the term.

Traffic signal timing is not a simple as it may appear. Yes, a signal that is all by its self may be easy to time. However coordinating a system with multiple signals and phasing plans can be complicated. Could any technically minded person learn how to do it? Absolutely. However, the same goes for almost any professional service.

>Saying someone must be specific about what kind of engineer they purport to be is quite unreasonable, and unnecessary.

You are essentially saying that any discipline of engineering is the same as any other. This is simply untrue. Do you want me as a traffic engineer doing the job of a chemical engineer? Probably not.

Simply calling oneself an engineer does not make it so. Just as I can't call myself a race car driver because I can drive a car fast by pressing the gas peddle further down. There must be enforcement of titles that effect public health and safety. Traffic engineering is one of those protected titles.

> You are essentially saying that any discipline of engineering is the same as any other.

No, but they are related, and any type of engineer will be trained to think like an engineer, which is really the only prerequisite for contributing to discussion about traffic design.

This man is not walking up to traffic lights and changing the timing, he sent a letter with his comments, and pointed out that he is an electrical engineer, which is how he is capable of understanding the nuances of traffic lights.

The problem is not that his idea was rejected, but that it was ignored. When we require licenses for broad things like "engineering ability", we prevent discussion on engineering topics.

> Simply calling oneself an engineer does not make it so.

Simply calling oneself an engineer is not harmful. I am not suddenly gaining authority by saying that I am a software engineer. I am, however, bringing to light years of self-education as a context for my understanding.

> There must be enforcement of titles that effect public health and safety.

That is a broad statement.

I agree that titles like MD or EMT that involve direct action that are likely to cause harm without proper training should be regulated, so that people can trust an individual who claims to be an MD or EMT to do the things that an MD or EMT does.

I disagree with the idea that no one is allowed to contribute to a discussion on topics related to public safety without a license. That is absurd.

Those who do the engineering likely should have a license, so that we can trust them.

Those who discuss engineering should not be limited to the ones who have a license.

Everyone should be able to discuss a topic without fear. Otherwise, engineers would not be able to hear from those who use their designs.

A software engineer that does not hear his or her users writes awful software. An engineer that designs something used by the public that does not hear his or her users is an awful engineer.

> As such, I feel that registration is very important and serves to protect the public at large from people producing work with little to no relevant experience.

It feels like in this case they were using registration (or lack thereof) to protect revenue and as a consequence they didn't protect people. I think the people that directed the case should be held accountable and perhaps the board should review their behavior.

Stop trying to use your "registered professional traffic engineer" title as a labor monopoly. It doesn't even mean you are good at your job.

It is not meant to create a labor monopoly any more than a medical doctors licence. Registration as an engineer is so that one can prove that they have the requisite knowledge and competency to perform the work required of them. Without registration, what legal assurances would you have that the engineer is capable of his job?

The same as any other job, like mine as a Site Reliability Engineer? A resume, a degree that can be validated, experience and knowledge that demonstrate competence, references, reputation, etc. Why does the state need to be the official signer-off on who can do a certain job?

It's main purpose is to create a labor monopoly, just as doctors licenses are.

And there is zero legal assurance that a Professional Engineer or a Medical Doctor can do their jobs competently.

Certifications are fine, if done by private organizations. Those certifications have to prove their value in the marketplace, to customers, or they'll become worthless.

When the boot heel of government is used to give certifications the force of law is when they run off the rails, and allow small groups to impose arbitrary rules to exclude valuable practitioners.

I’m sure the professional traffic engineers association would have strong words in reply to your comment.

Of course they would, it's the association's job to prevent their work to exclude others from their business being exposed.

Does it matter if his points are valid?

I don't need to be a chef to know when the meat is spoiled.

It matters specifically in the case of making legal arguments.

I'm not saying the board was right, but please see it from their perspective. A certified traffic engineer would also use the term "engineer" in his findings. The latter's analysis would be given much more weight, be trusted more, simply because that's what certification is meant for. We've created titles and institutions for a purpose, so that Average Joe Board Member doesn't need to go into the details of a technical analysis, but can trust the outcome proposed/suggested.

Sure, if we're talking about some kind of complicated physics and structural calculations, with lots of technical jargon - yes, involve the engineers.

But we're talking about some simple math for counting the length of traffic lights. Everybody uses traffic lights, everybody knows simple math. It is ridiculous to assert that you need a technical qualification to know it's wrong that red light cameras flash at 100 seconds, but the light changes at 110 seconds.

I don't think anyone is disputing the law beyond claiming that it's stupid.

And, in this case, the board members were all certified traffic engineers and were reviewing this other person's offered analysis (or, rather, deciding to go after the person for their affront in even offering the analysis at all without having a certification). As others have pointed out, Oregon is very selectively enforcing the law. It's pretty hard not to conclude that some asshole decided to go after someone for pointing out problems with work for which they were somewhat responsible.

You may be confusing making arguments with providing testimony as an expert to a tribunal or court.

Expert testimony is evidence, not argument.

A lot of this is covered in the discussion you allude to (where you have the top comment): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14197512

Kiuper's sibling comment in this thread sums it up nicely as far as I can tell.

The whole business of red light cameras is pretty dubious to begin with. It seems more like a tool local municipalities use to tax through traffic rather than a means of protecting public safety.


I live in Ireland and recently my wife got a speeding ticket having supposedly been caught by a mobile speed detector van. She was pretty certain that she hadn't been speeding as she knows the particular stretch of road is notorious for hidden speed traps.

The court summons photo had the GPS co-ordinates of the vans location embedded in the corner. So I types them in to Google Maps and it supposedly showed that the van was 50 meters away from the road in a farmers field. I tried again with other mapping sources including Ordnance Survey Ireland - all produced the same result.

So our case was simple, if the GPS in the van was so inaccurate then that called in to question the accuracy of the rest of the attached equipment - including the speed detection gear.

So I built up a portfolio of documents from both government, commercial and academic sources stating that the GPS equipment in the van should have been more accurate - to at least 5m and ideally more than that. I was also able to call upon my experience having worked on various GIS systems and on the development of lone worker emergency beacons in the past.

When I spoke for my wife in court the prosecutor asked me if I was was a certified GPS engineer. I said that I didn't believe such a title existed and that I was offering evidence based on my professional experience. But that was enough to sway the judge who said that unless I had someone from "GPS" [sic] with me than my evidence counted for nothing.

Fair play to the guy in the article for putting up a fight.

If you have to do this again at any point, you will likely find more success if you attack the accuracy of the speed measuring equipment, and specifically any traceable calibration of that equipment. Calling into question the accuracy of the GPS location fix in the photo did not directly say anything about the speed measuring device. This is because the speed measurement device was very likely not the GPS locator unit that stamped the photo. The speed measuring device was likely an independent radar or laser unit. The prosecution should bring with them proof that the unit had been field tested that day to verify correct functioning andd field accuracy, and as well should bring the calibration evidence showing professional calibration of the speed measurement device. But unless you question the speed measurement device itself, they have no reason to say much about the calibration status of the device. And since most defendants argue simply "I wasn't speeding" the prosecutors sometimes get lazy and leave the calibration documentation behind. If you question the calibration and they don't have the requisite evidence, then you've got something you can use to convince the judge to rule in your favor.

The prosecuting Garda Sargeant could not provide a calibration certificate for the speed detector, but the judge still didn't care. It was just a production line

Yes. And from my former state:


> Since then, a federal lawsuit settlement awarded partial refunds to nearly 500,000 violators, and this year a computer glitch voided more than 10,000 violation notices.


> While the cameras in Newark have been turned off, Redflex continues to face a series of legal battles.

> The company’s former CEO was indicted in August on federal corruption charges, alleging she bribed a retired Chicago official in exchange for assistance with the company’s red light camera contracts in that city.

> In a federal lawsuit, a fired company executive has claimed Redflex provided lavish gifts and bribes to government officials in 13 states, including New Jersey, to secure new contracts.


> With the research conflicting, Fairfax County, Va., sought other ways to reduce red-light violations and related crashes. It found that lengthening an amber light by 1.5 seconds cut red-light violations by 96 percent - a greater reduction than red-light cameras produce. But that's a problem if what you're looking for is ticket revenue.

And I could not find it -- but I clearly remember a Newark/Trenton mayor accidentally saying "We really need the money" when trying to speak for re-instating the cameras.

And then there's the pesky Constitution, which municipalities get around by making the violations civil instead of criminal. Less burden of proof.

Of course it’s a way to raise revenue without using the ballot box.

For additional reference, here's a previous discussion on HN about this case, linked to a previous Vice Motherboard article:

"Man Fined $500 for Crime of Writing 'I Am an Engineer' in an Email to the Gov't" (April 26, 2017 - 267 comments) https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14197512

Kudos to the engineer who decided to fight the state on its ridiculous claim. I wonder if there is anything that can be done to help avoid a repeat? It is possible for the bureaucrat(s) responsible for original decision to sue to be fired or at least demoted? If so, what would it take (media coverage, letters to lawmakers, something else)?

I am glad the results were the way they were, but without slapping someone's hand for this it will happen again next time.

So companies who have an opening for a "Software Engineer" or people having resumes with "Software Engineer" titles (Which is prettty common, I mean my resume has it, most of my peers call themselves Software Engineer / SDE and some prominent people recommend this title as a mean of improving your chances to be hired, http://www.kalzumeus.com/2011/10/28/dont-call-yourself-a-pro... ).

All are basically violating the law? (except those who actually took the official PE exam, which apparently is available for computer science since 2013 - https://softwareengineering.stackexchange.com/questions/3954... )

Basically in states like Oregon, the officials can just scan linkedin, anyone who lives in the state and has Software Engineer in their title and is not a licenced engineer, can be forced to pay a $500 fine?

Edit: I actually went and did the search, there are 18,101 software engineer titles in Oregon in LinkedIn, here's an easy $9 million for the state in fines.

My assumption that if this gets to court, since the colloquial term for a software programmer / developer is nowadays "Software Engineer" and since there was no official way to become a certified "computer science" engineer prior to 2013, this will be hopefully thrown out the window.

Photo traffic tickets are just another tool for those with a monopoly on force to steal money from people. Fortunately, in Arizona the state is still required to serve in person in order for the ticket to be binding. My wife and I have got for or five of these tickets in the mail over the years. We just throw them in the trash.

> Fortunately, in Arizona the state is still required to serve in person in order for the ticket to be binding.

Colorado as well.

> We just throw them in the trash.

This worked once for me. The second time, an off duty Sheriff's Deputy came to my house and served me.

Not exactly true - in CO you can get a speed trap van to mail you a ticket from Arizona - they can't add points to your record but they can take you to court if you don't pay.

That happened to us once I think but it was not law enforcement. They tried to have someone serve us in the evening. We just didn't answer the door

Interesting...the guy flashed some kind of metal, cop looking badge. They do give badges to lots of people these days other than police/sheriff so I guess it could've been any .gov thug.

The other problem is that they invade privacy.

Having a camera constantly recording in a public area is not something that I find reasonable. Cameras do not announce their presence. Cameras do not get tired, or leave. Cameras made for law enforcement assume guilt.

I'm torn about this. Surveillance by people is expensive, grueling, and hard to hide. If I imagine police wanting to replace a team of people surveilling some person or people or place with a camera, I don't notice any outrage.

It's more the ubiquity of surveillance that seems unreasonable, but, like a lot of things, there's no clear dividing line between what should be allowed and what should be prohibited. And it's even more complicated by the ability of, e.g. police, to pool multiple cameras owned by private individuals or groups.

Why do we need to constantly surveil people? What happened to trust?

When people do illegal things to other people or their property, that is when law enforcement should get involved.

We shouldn't just watch people waiting to see them do something that we have defined as "wrong". We should react to the things that people do wrong, and educate people about how to go about their lives without harming others.

> Surveillance by people is expensive, grueling, and hard to hide.

Laws are designed for a law enforcement body that has these inadequacies. If we start enforcing them in a different way that does not have these limitations, the aspects of those laws that were designed to make up for those inadequacies suddenly become harsh and constrictive.

> If I imagine police wanting to replace a team of people surveilling some person or people or place with a camera, I don't notice any outrage.

Here you are talking about "warranted" surveillance.

Traffic cameras are warrantless.

You run red lights and think it's a "money grab"? And are happy about non-enforcement?

I believe you lack the maturity to operate multi-ton vehicles on public streets.

1) GP admitted no wrongdoing, accusation is not proof.

2) Traffic cameras are used to issue more than just red light tickets, speed cameras being another example.

3) TFA is about flaws in those devices that can lead to incorrect accusations on the part of the state employing them.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. What proof are you looking for?

And this is a thread about red light cameras. Is this confusing to you? What's the difference in "money grabbiness" between red light cameras and speed cameras? Is someone who disregards the one but not the other qualified to drive?

And you seem to have missed it, but this article and the "engineer" isn't even claiming the devices are wrongfully ticketing.

> You run red lights and think it's a "money grab"?

There is no proof of your statement.

You assumed guilt because the state sent a ticket to someone. Just because a ticket showed up in the mail does not mean the person is guilty of anything. So what if driving is a privilege? Can the government stop us at its whim from doing anything that isn't explicitly listed in the Bill of Rights?

Red light cameras and speed cameras are both mindless automatons that are configured by fallible humans. They don't always work. I don't think a person's ability to drive should be judged by the findings of these machines.

You seem to have missed it, but

> Järlström was inspired by the $150 ticket his wife got in the mail in May after driving through an intersection with a red-light camera in Beaverton, Ore. His research showed that the mathematical formula used in the timing of yellow lights was outdated and unfair to drivers.

> Järlström’s interest in traffic cameras has grown into a passion. He says the original formula for calculating the duration of yellow lights dates back to the 1950s and only accounts for cars driving in straight lines. Cars in turning lanes need more time to slow down and make a legal right-hand turn, he says.

Just because driving is a privilege, doesn't mean that it is ok for the government to use broken systems that do not accurately catch lawbreakers.

Getting a ticket for running a red light when you entered an intersection in a yellow light is the money grab.

This might actually be a bigger deal than people realize. This sets a precedence of being able to submit engineering publications and work without being licensed. Sure you can't still perform commercial or public engineering works unless licensed but you can speak publicly on technical matters.

It shocks me that we literally have a license to speak about some matters in some states, and some people are OK with that.

So what? I don't want to live in a society governed by titles. Real talent doesn't need to rely on titles. I have titles but so what?

I wasn't speaking of titles. I was speaking of submitting technical work on engineering related ideas. Typically this is highly regulated under U.S. state laws.

The generally-good requirement that plans are stamped by a "Professional Engineer" is required by public AHJs/codes and private regulations (eg insurance), and is not under dispute here. Meanwhile much engineering work is not under this regime, but checked by market demand and testing (eg software/electronic).

As an Electrical Engineer that has little interest in power systems and isn't looking to rewire other people's houses for money, I have very little use for a PE. I still have the basic right, along with everyone else (regardless of education), to make technical judgments of any situation. How these judgments are valued can (and should) be questioned, but our right to speak them cannot.

These laws you speak of are a mix of unenforced, unenforceable, unconstitutional, and unconscionable. Their actual effects are constrained between nothing (ie most people accept the concept of free speech) and the harmful thuggish behavior described in the article.

I agree. The laws themselves read very anachronistically and I can only hope over time they are rolled over to have a much smaller scope. i.e. the government can require specific well-labeled qualifications for its own projects.

There are millions of examples of the law being broken in its literal form that would show its absurdity, ranging from computers to cars to banks to universities and classrooms.

Good on this man for fighting it in court.

<i>These laws you speak of are a mix of unenforced, unenforceable, unconstitutional, and unconscionable.</i>

Would you say the same thing about doctor licensing laws?

Yes, if those laws were able/used to silence PhDs using the title Doctor and/or nurses giving informal friendly diagnoses.

The proper test is fraud, not trademark or unauthorized subject matter.

Are you using your own common sense for determining the boundaries of legal doctoring or are you using your State's statues?

There is a fearful symmetry between the inaccurate red light camera and misapplication of the Professional Engineer Registration Act in violation of Järlström’s free speech rights.

The cameras were sold like opioids to cities promising revenues and 'safety'. I'd like to know who the elected officials who signed up for these were.

They're mostly gone in the Bay Area but they still exist up in Redding. So CA hasn't banned them statewide.

Out of curiosity (and not really related to the article) but I’m kind of surprised to hear there is a formula for calculating how long(?) yellow lights are on and that it relates to a red light camera. AFAIK those cameras are hooked into the control system and only activate when the light is red, which seems like a pretty binary decision. Can someone shed some light on this?

The yellow light provides a period when drivers know the light is going to go red soon, all else being equal this light should be set to stay on for just long enough for drivers in properly maintained cars, who drive at legal speeds, to see it and all either come to a stop or pass the intersection before the light turns red. Typically formulas care about the allowed speed of cars, the expected braking capability of a car that's allowed on the road, the gradient (down hill it's hard to stop quickly!) and other factors, plus the size of the junction (a huge junction can't change as quickly because it takes time to cross the junction).

That is, Sally is doing 40mph in a 40mph zone, she sees the light turn yellow, and she's very close to the junction so she just keeps going, everything is fine. Bob is doing 25mph in a 55mph zone, he's some distance from the lights, they turn yellow, Bob stops normally as the lights turn red.

With red light cameras providing revenue there is an incentive to cut that time too short. Now Sally finds the light turned red earlier and she got a ticket. So next time Sally won't make that mistake, as soon as the light goes yellow she slams on the anchors, and somebody goes straight in the back of her - there's a traffic accident even though we invented these lights to reduce accidents. Oops.

Now a _good_ government would resist the temptation. They would set the formula to reduce crashes. But money is very tempting. Shaving a second off the time, getting $1M of extra revenue and oops smashing up a thousand people's cars, that's a good deal so long as you aren't paying for all those car repairs...

The heart of the problem is that traffic cameras assume guilt.

Having constantly vigilant eyes watching for anyone to do one exact thing wrong is totally unreasonable, because those eyes to not announce their presence, and the definition of "wrong" is not directly quantifiable.

Police focus too much on quantifiable things like speed, where there is a lot more nuance to the surrounding situation.

I came to say basically the same thing - only your reply is much better worded and detailed than mine would have been.

In the age of big data optimizing for the right value will be our greatest challenge.

The question becomes "what is the right value?"

Is it "optimise for most money and fewest/no crashes"?

Or is it "optimise for fewest accidents"?

I can almost guarantee it will be the first option that is selected.

Yes I should have phrased that as "In the age of big data selecting the value to optimize will be our greatest challenge."

In Oregon, yellow essentially means stop. A lot of Oregon transplants (and apparently many commentators in this thread) aren't aware of this.



Oregon has lost of dumb laws. This one makes people less safe.

I'm sure the cameras are integrated into the control system. I believe problem is with the timing of the yellow light. If I made a light yellow 0.5 seconds on a road where people are traveling 35 mph, it wouldn't be possible for cars to stop.

> City officials said the cameras are a safety tool in order to prevent accidents at busy intersections.

When I hear something is "for my safety", I take it to mean I'm about to lose some freedoms or some money.

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