They say Levey lives in a dream world. They say his wife must have bought him a bulletproof vest for his birthday. They say if you bop the trunk of a passing car whose driver has sinned, being right won't protect you, and not much else will, either.

A few days ago, I recounted the story of a pedestrian who was crossing the street with the WALK sign. A motorist made a right-on-red so tightly that he nearly crushed the pedestrian's toes. So the pedestrian bopped the guy's trunk with the flat of his hand. The idea was to get the driver's attention in a minor, chastening, unharmful way.

Not this time. The driver leapt out from behind the wheel and confronted the bopper. Matters might have gotten very ugly, indeed, if a busful of witnesses hadn't started shouting through the open windows that the driver had been in the wrong. He hopped back behind the wheel and disappeared before anyone ended up in the emergency room.

After I published that story, including my applause for the trunk-bopper, more than a dozen readers disputed my judgment, in varying degrees of apoplexy. Those readers all feel that bopping a passing trunk is too likely to lead to disaster.

Jane McGowan, a secretary who works in the canyons of K Street, said she trunk-whapped a motorist last week when the guy ran a red light right in front of her. "He jumped out and threatened to kill me," Jane said. "I couldn't believe it. And the names he called me were incredible."

A lawyer who asked that his name be withheld said he, too, dished out a little whapmanship to a careless driver at the corner of 18th and N Streets NW. "He found a place to pull over, chased me down in the next block, spun me around and punched me in the mouth," the lawyer reports. Five stitches were needed to close his split lip.

The lawyer knows karate, so the driver-puncher did not escape retaliation. Still, "I don't think any public purpose was served by two men brawling in the street," the lawyer told me.

Another lawyer, Sam Intrater, who practices on K Street, tells two similar tales.

In the first, Sam was escorting an elderly male client from his office to the subway entrance. A car cut the two men off. Sam's client slapped the trunk with a rolled-up newspaper. "Thereupon a young man in his early 30s jumped out of the car, cursing, seized my client about the shoulders and threw him to the ground," Sam writes. Sam says he would have sued, but his client told him not to bother.

In the second incident, a female pedestrian crossing Connecticut Avenue at K Street stepped off the curb as soon as the WALK sign appeared. As Sam and dozens of fellow pedestrians watched, a car ran a red light and slammed to a halt, inches from the woman. She slapped the car's hood.

"Thereupon the driver, again a young man, jumped out of the car holding a piece of lumber about three feet long and four inches in diameter. Sort of like a crude, swollen baseball bat," Sam writes. The pedestrian fled.

Sam offers this moral for his two tales (and it fits the others):

"There are a lot of crazies out there, boiling underneath like an aroused volcano, and just looking for something that will trigger an eruption . . . .

"Better red (with justifiable anger) than dead."

Unquestionably, you're much less likely to cause a murder by keeping your hands to yourself. Unquestionably, many motorists have short fuses and would think nothing of bashing in your skull or mine. Unquestionably, it's no fun to get thrown to the pavement, socked in the mouth or clubbed with a piece of lumber.

But who will teach these lummoxes a lesson if you and I won't or don't? I guarantee you it isn't going to be the police.

Real world: If a cop sees a confrontation of the kind described above, he probably isn't going to do anything. Either he has somewhere else to be that's more pressing, or he's too lazy, or he's too scared, or he doesn't think it's worth the bother to administer a lecture (and possibly a piddling traffic citation).

There is virtually no such thing in modern-day Washington as a cop who prevents crime. All most cops do is mop up afterwards. That's why it's up to us -- not in the sense of being vigilantes, but in the sense of protecting ourselves and others like us.

I would never argue that it's 100 percent safe to bop a trunk. However, it has to be more safe than unsafe. How many motorists regard the trunk of their Egomobile as an extension of themselves? Relatively few. Besides, most motorists who get trunk-whapped know in their heart of hearts that they deserve it. And they're reluctant to jump out and start shouting because they're just as afraid of getting murdered by a stranger as you and I are.

Trunk-bopping is no different from beeping at some guy who cuts you off on the Beltway. Yes, that can get you killed, too. But it's far more likely that you'll be killed by a careless driver, either on K Street or on the inner loop.

So why not alert a bad driver to his badness? Today's trunk-whap is tomorrow's survival.