City traffic safety officials have abandoned the "Don't Drive If You Drink" injunction traditionally issued during the Christmas holidays throughout the nation for what may be a more realistic if less commanding slogan: "Know Your Limits."

In a flurry of "Know Your Limits" placards, banners, and wallet-size cards provided by the local liquor industry, D.C. Police yesterday launched their annual holiday season campaign to reduce the number of alcohol-related traffic smashups.

"While we all agree . . . that hte best policy is don't drive after drinking," Deputy Chief Robert Klotz told a press conference, "We cannot simply ignore the many people who do combine these privileges on occasion . . . There is a big difference between a few drinks and a few too many."

Klotz and other officials also released statisfics that they say show a three-year old alcohol "countermeasures" program by police has brought about a significant reduction in liquor-related traffic fatalities and accidents in the city.

While the annual number of drunk driving arrests by police has more than doubled from 1,611 in 1975 to 4,117 so far this year, they said, the number of reported accidents has dropped from 25,300 to 19,578 in the same period, and the proportion of alcohol-related fatalities had declined from 52 per cent of all traffic deaths to 36 per cent.

The police have reduced the number of accidents and deaths by intercepting more drunk drivers than they used to, said Robert Goldstein, director of the Alcohol Countermeasures Program, a $250,000 federally funded experiment in reducing such accidents through specialized police trainning and increased arrests and prosections.

The "Know Your Limits" publicity campaign announced yesterday is a new facet of the countermeasures program, Goldstein Said.

The placards, paper banners and wallet-size informational cards have been distributed to almost 1,000 liquor stores, bars and other alcoholic beverage outlets in the city, according to spokemen for the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

The wallet-size card contains a chart showing the number of drinks that a person, depending on his weight, can generally tolerate before he is impaired.

An average 140-pound person, for example, who has a 12-ounce beer or a single ounce of 100 proof liquor would have a blood alcohol content of .03 of 1 per cent and would be "influenced rarely," according to the chart.

A 160-pound person who has five such drinks, however, would have a blood alcohol content of .12 of 1 per cent and would be "definitely" influenced.

The chart also lists a broad range of alcoholic intake designated only as "possibly" influencing the drinker.

Spokemen at the press conference stressed that the chart is only a general guide and is not scientifically precise.

Drivers can be declared legally drunk when they have a blood alcohol content of .10 of 1 per cent or more.

Klotz said that the traditional "Don't Drive If You Drink" watchword has been dropped as unrealistic in favor of the "Know Your Limits" slogan already in use in several other cities.

A fact sheet distributed at the press conference said a federally funded survey by the Alcohol Safety Action Project in Denver, Colo., found that people were "overwhelmingly more responsive to advise on responsible drinking than they were to the 'don't drink and drive' slogan."

Rufus Peckham, an attorney for the distilled spirits council, said printing and distribution of the "Know Your Limits" literature are being underwritten by the national trade association and local alcoholic beverage wholesalers and retailers. The cost so far, he said, has been $4,000 to $5,000.