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Oregon Engineer Makes History With New Traffic Light Timing Formula


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Mats Jarlstrom and traffic signals.

The Institute of Transportation Engineers has voted to adopt a new formula for determining the timing of traffic lights, which was developed by a man who previously was fined $500 by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying for publicly criticizing traffic light timing without first obtaining a professional engineering license.

Credit: Institute of Justice

Today, the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) formally announced that it voted to adopt a new formula for determining the timing of traffic lights. The vote vindicates the theory of Mats Järlström, who was fined $500 by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying for publicly criticizing traffic light timing without first obtaining a professional engineering license.

The ITE's vote updates a 55-year-old equation with Mats's formula, which takes into account the time drivers need to slow down when making a turn in an intersection.

The vote could have wide-ranging, international ramifications by giving drivers a little more time to get through intersections (and in some cases, avoid frustrating red light tickets).

"It didn't take an engineering license to realize that the formula for traffic light timing was flawed," said Järlström. "I'm just glad that the ITE and the professional engineering community were willing to listen to an outsider, consider my work, and finally update their formula."

Järlström continued: "We will never know how many Americans have received red light tickets for making perfectly safe right-hand turns. Hopefully this change will give everyone a little more time to get through an intersection safely."

 

From Institute for Justice
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