In a recent column, I referred to common traffic offenses.

One of them was the practice of slowing down to 15 or 20 miles an hour at "Stop" signs, as if that satisfies a legal requirement to stop.

That column reminded Marion Sanders of a period of insomnia she underwent several years ago. When she would awaken at 3 a.m., she would pass the time by watching traffic from the window of her apartment.

Marion says she found that about four drivers out of 10 stop for red lights and remain stopped. The others begin inching forward after stopping, and in the wee hours many sneak through on the red. At least one car at night streaks through the red without even slowing down.

The cab driver in front of me at 15th and Mass almost tangled with a streaker who drove through a red light at 4 a.m. this past Sunday.

The hacker and I had been waiting at the light. When it changed, the hacker started forward, then stopped suddenly. I wondered why.

About four seconds later, I had my answer. The hacker had spotted a car approaching on Massachusetts Avenue at about 60 miles an hour, and since there was no indication that the other driver had any intention of stopping, the cabbie yielded. The other car went through the intersection at a speed that would surely have resulted in a fatality had there been a collision.

Consider what was involved: At 60 mph, the other driver was moving 88 feet per second. He had seen a yellow light come on at least seven seconds before he arrived at the intersection, so he was at least 600 feet away when he had warning the light was changing. He was still 352 feet from the intersection when the yellow turned to red. But he barrelled right through anyhow.

Why do people drive in this manner? I think the problem has many roots.

People drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, anger, tension and other things that impair their thinking.

The average person is no Einstein even when he's cold sober and under no pressure.

The average person's judgment of speed and distance leaves much to be desired.

The average person woolgathers as he drives and is not in an alert state that is conductive to the making of life-and-death judgments.

The average person is not skilled in emergency evasive action or other techniques designed to avoid collisions or minimize their damage.

The average person has never taken formal driving lessons and would be insulted if somebody suggested he could benefit from them.

The average person has only a vague idea of what the law requires of drivers.

the average person does not base his actions on the concept that he should integrate his movements with those of all the other persons on the highway. Instead, he concentrates primarily on his desire to proceed from here to there. If other drivers didn't impede his progress from time to time, he wouldn't think about them at all.

Finally, the average driver thinks traffic regulations and traffic statistics refer to other people, not to him. He knows that alcohol and drug impairment are present in about half of all fatal accidents. He knows that speed is the next-biggest cause of death. He knows about traffic cops and radar zones and all the rest. But all that stuff applies to other people, not to him. He insists on his right to drive regardless of his condition, and he subjects the policeman who stops him to verbal and sometimes even physical abuse.

Many things could be done in an attempt to correct some of these problems.

The most effective of these remedies may be better enforcement and more certain punishment for violators.

However, it appears to me that public opinion does not support strict enforcement or swift punishment. We don't want programs that will change out driving habits, even though we realize deep down that our inept driving is a constant threat to our lives.

I can't explain why drivers act as they do, I can only report what I see. If you want an expert analysis of this nation's bizarre relationship with automobiles, I suggest that you find a couch large enough to accommodate 100 million drivers; then find a psychiatrist who gives group rates. THANKS A HEAP, FRIENDS

Our dear friends in the European Economic Community are going to help us put pressure on Iran -- but not, as they had promised, by terminating all business dealings. They're going to cancel only agreements made after Nov. 4, and not even all of those.

Where did we go wrong?Perhaps it was in being too miserly in handing out foreign aid after World War Ii. How could we expect to buy true friendship with only a few paltry billions every year?