An analysis of federal inspections records revealed that at least 17,000 bridges in the U.S. went more than two years between safety inspections, this according to a recent exposé. This despite the fact that Congress in 1971 ordered rigorous standards for inspecting bridges every 24 months.

Perhaps this exposé was intended to induce indignation, but on me it had the opposite effect. It demonstrated how thankful we ought to be:

  • We live in a country where our government's top concern is its citizenry's welfare. They regularly enact regulations to ensure the safety of our drinking water, elevators, medicines, bridges, the air we breathe and even the Barbie dolls our children play with.
  • You'll have to read past the report's first few paragraphs—but it's there. The author reluctantly concedes that the bridges that received late inspections comprise less than 3% of the U.S.'s 592,000 vehicular bridges. So most bridges are inspected on schedule, and a fraction of them are also inspected—a bit late.
  • I'm most gratified that the author of the report chose not to take a positive upbeat attitude. a) That wouldn't have left me much what to write about. b) When journalists focus on the negative, the appropriate government agencies are prompted to act—to make a currently good situation even better and safer.

So what's the lesson in this for us? Here's one thought:

Every individual is a little island. Throughout our lifetimes we build an elaborate infrastructure of bridges that connect us to family members, friends, and our Creator. Building a bridge is a tedious process, but once it is sturdy and structurally sound, we tend to forget about the importance of bridge maintenance.

And when a bridge comes crashing down, we suddenly realize: the cement was crumbling over there... the underpinning were compromised by that storm... the suspension lines were wearing out over there. Now we are facing a huge construction job, when regular maintenance could have spared us the hassle.

Do the inspection yourself. Don't wait for a bridge to fall, or for someone else to do an exposé on one of your bridges...