Last month's horrific crash that threw a 70-year-old retired sportswriter off the Bay Bridge and killed him underscores the fact that long bridges and tunnels are an especially dangerous place for drivers to be on less than their best behavior.

The investigation into the April 18 crash in which a truck rear-ended a broken-down car isn't complete, so judgment will be suspended as to who was at fault.

But if that crash was the result of a traffic infraction, it raises a question about why violations on the Bay Bridge and other toll bridges and in tunnels are treated like garden-variety offenses.

Maryland's toll bridges and tunnels are especially hazardous places because they are tightly enclosed and lack shoulders for disabled vehicles to pull out of the way. Extra care should be mandatory.

Would it be at all unreasonable to double or even triple the fines for violations on toll bridges and tunnels? Signs could be erected on the approaches to these facilities warning about the enhanced penalties.

It's not just the added danger. It's also that when someone causes a traffic crash on the bridge, that driver is often responsible for a backup that can rob hours from fellow motorists' lives.

The bridges and tunnels are also especially difficult places for police to enforce the law by conventional means. After all, officers can't lurk by the side of the road in the middle of the Bay Bridge or Fort McHenry Tunnel.

That's why automated enforcement makes a great deal of sense on these facilities. The Maryland Transportation Authority could ask the General Assembly for both the stiffer fines and permission to use cameras to enforce laws against speeding, tailgating and lane-changing on bridges and in tunnels.

The worst that can happen is that legislators would say no.

Stay in your car

If you find yourself stranded on a toll facility such as the Bay Bridge, please resist the natural impulse to get out of the car.

It isn't easy. It's hard to imagine something more frightening than occupying a disabled vehicle in a traffic lane of the Bay Bridge. But that's the advice given by the transportation authority, which knows a thing or two about toll facilities.

As long as you're in an enclosed vehicle, there's a metal barrier between you and bodily harm. And help is never far away at Maryland toll bridges and tunnels. Even if you're caught without a cellphone, someone else will call the police.

Hang tight. Put on the blinkers. And hope that your fellow drivers are paying attention.

Walking in Fells Point

Residents of Fells Point have already won one round in their battle for safer streets for pedestrians, according to City Councilman Jim Kraft.

After local activist Rebecca Gershenson Smith raised concerns about changes to the timing of pedestrian signals at busy intersections in the historic neighborhood, the city has agreed to install countdown timer signs at corners in Fells Point, Kraft said.

That doesn't answer all of Smith's requests for changes, but it's a big one.

Smith raised the issue with the city Transportation Department, Kraft and The Baltimore Sun after reaching the conclusion that recent moves by city traffic engineers had made Fells Point less walkable.