State police officials from Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania yesterday kicked off their sixth annual Operation CARE crackdown on speeders, drunken drivers and other dangerous motorists on the region's interstate highways this summer.

Assembled at the Laurel rest stop on I-95 midway between Washington and Baltimore, the officials said they will beef up both ground and air patrols throughout the summer vacation period, with special concentration on the Memorial, Independence and Labor Day holidays.

"We'll be using a lot of marked cars, hopefully to act as a deterrent," Maryland State Police spokesman Dan McCarthy said, "but also we'll be using some unconventional unmarked vehicles."

By unconventional, he said he meant "anything from a hay wagon to a recreational vehicle to a foreign sports car." A state police airplane also will patrol the interstates, McCarthy said, alerting ground-based officers of speeders and other unsafe drivers.

"We want drivers to do three things this summer: obey speed limits, don't drink and drive and use safety belts," McCarthy said.

He noted that traffic fatalities on Maryland highways so far this year are less than the number for the same period last year--192 compared to 215--"and we hope we can improve on that record this summer."

Speeding arrests resulting from aerial enforcement also increased dramatically, from 404 to 1,080, in the first three months of this year over the same period last year. McCarthy said this was due largely to the fact that state police acquired an extra pilot this year and, as a result, were able to log more flight time with their one spotter plane.

Operation CARE--an acronym for Combined Accident Reduction Effort--will concentrate in Maryland on Interstates 95, 70, 270 and the beltways around Washington and Baltimore because "that is where the bulk of traffic is during the summer vacation period and the holidays," McCarthy said.

In addition to the police brass at Laurel yesterday, National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration regional chief Frank D. Altobelli was on hand, as were leaders of REACT, a private volunteer group that monitors CB radio traffic and sets up roadside coffee rest stops for motorists.

Operation CARE was started in 1978 as a coordinated accident reduction campaign among several East Coast state police departments and has become a nationwide program.