Catching drunken drivers could be as close as your car phone if the latest effort by the Maryland State police is successful.

Last week, three barracks in Prince George's and Montgomery counties asked motorists with cellular car phones to report drivers who appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"We want citizens who spot drunken drivers on the road to call us on their cellular phones and tell us their location," said Trooper Richard F. Barilone, a spokesman for the State Police's Forestville barracks. He said the calls from the road might enable police to respond faster to reports of drunken drivers.

The police said they were inaugurating the program during the holiday season because traditionally the amount of alcohol-related accidents increases then.

The highway hot line idea is not new. The state police introduced a similar program several years ago when citizen band radios were popular. However, the number of calls has dropped since the heyday of the CB, said Barilone.

"We have less manpower than we had last year," Barilone said earlier this week. "Any effort they (drivers) could make would be appreciated. Some nights we have only three troopers to patrol 107 miles" assigned to the Forestville barracks.

Barilone strictly advised callers against "trying to pull over the drunk driver. We don't want them (the caller) speeding, running red lights or breaking any laws."

Motorists with CBs are asked to continue calling on Channel 9. Callers may remain anonymous.

In the Forestville area call 568-8101; in College Park, 345-3101; in Rockville, 424-2101.