Maximum and minimum


20130328-180047I’ve always found signage interesting. What exactly is the message that is the author meant to convey? The grocery store sign of ’10 items or less’ lets the shopper know know exactly how many items are allowed through the checkout despite being grammatically incorrect.

Today on my bike ride I noticed a No Motor Vehicles sign. What interested me about this sign was the next line: ‘Max fine $250’. Knowing what the maximum fine I might pay allows me to make a value judgement. Is it worth $250 for me to drive my car on the bike path?  Similarly, handicap parking signs state a maximum fine.  Again, I can choose if it’s worth up to $500 to park there.

The goal of the sign is to deter a particular behavior. If deterrence is the goal then a minimum fine should be shown. As a reader of the sign, knowing the minimum but not a maximum my thought process changes. If the minimum fine is $250, how high could it go? By stating a minimum only, the sign takes away my ability to make an informed decision, thus making it more risky and less likely for me to behave in the prohibited manner.

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