13 December 2005

a little problem with scope

Last night I saw a low-budget commercial for a product that renders license plates unviewable from red-light cameras, despite being invisible to the eye. I thought this was somewhat morally questionable, though it helps protect against false accusations (mind you, that's something that a court appearance could help).

But the linguistic content of the commercial was compelling. For just 39.95, said the voiceover, you can protect yourself from tens of millions of dollars in unjust fines. It sounds like an exaggeration, since no individual presumably will ever receive that much in fines. I think there must have been a script-editing issue, and that the original message must have been to the effect that you need not be one of those unlucky people who receive a combined total of tens of millions of dollars.

But it's not really a false claim: hypothetically you could run 100,000 red lights (or be falsely accused of doing so), which at $100 a pop gets you $10M. You would just have to run every red light you encounter for 16.7 years (assuming 1 traffic light every mile, half of which are red when you reach them, and driving 12,000 miles a year). Spray your plate, save millions.

OK, so it still sounds exaggerated, but if it's not false, there's no need to change it.