Last January, my husband, youngest child and I were hit by a tractor-trailer on the Beltway. The trucker was exceeding the speed limit and drifted over into our lane. The ensuing accident demolished our car and left us shaken and angry.

We were luckier than some. Only because we were wearing our seat belts were we able to walk away from a car that the insurance company wrote off as a total loss. In the process of settling the accident, we were astounded to learn that our insurance company could not look at a copy of the trucker's driving record.

There is not a day that goes by when I am traveling on the Beltway to and from my job on Capitol Hill that I don't shudder when an 18- wheeler passes too closely or rides my bumper. I remember when truckers had a reputation as the safest drivers on the road, as well as courteous and helpful if you found yourself in trouble.

Now, however, the combination of Washington-area drivers who've left their motoring manners at home and truckers who assume that the laws of the road were not meant for them makes the Beltway a death way.

The carnage will continue until people all over this area, as an AAA spokesman has pointed out, engage in a little self-policing. Additional collective courtesy and whopping fines for truckers may, over time, restore sanity and safety.

-- Wrexie Bardaglio The Washington area has now been afflicted with a series of truck accidents on the Beltway, and once again, the suggestion is made that somebody ought to do something about the problem.

One organization that could do something is the American Trucking Association. The ATA should press for the following:

Strict adherence to the 55 mph speed limit.

Strict adherence to safe vehicle standards and a voluntary inspection program administered by ATA to ensure safety for those states that have no truck inspection laws.

Strict adherence by all truckers to the maximum working-hour rules.

Advice to all truckers that driving below the maximum speed limit is common sense for all in congested traffic.

Campaign for a law requiring 55 mph governors in all trucks.

Disciplinary action for repeat offenders and a nationwide computer system to advise employers of the safety record of an employee before hire.

-- R. E. England Almost every day during my commute from Lanham to Alexandria and back I see a truck driver tailgating or cutting someone off or driving at an excessively high speed. They seem so belligerent -- almost as if they're compelled to intimidate the other drivers on the road. Whatever happened to the "knights of the road"?

As I drive past the American Trucking Association building across the street from my office, I have to fight the urge to run in and shout: "Do you know what your guys did to us today?"

I don't think the answer is to ban trucks from the Beltway; the Beltway is, after all, a vital link in interstate as well as local travel. But I do wish the safe haven of the left lane could be extended to the two left lanes.

The state police must step up their activities on the Beltway. Although I've been traveling the Beltway during rush hour for almost two years, I've seldom seen anyone stopped by the police; I've never seen an 18-wheeler stopped. The police should use unmarked cars to enforce the speed limit, and they should crack down hard on tailgating and unsafe lane changes by all drivers -- cars, trucks, buses, whatever.

-- Dianna Sakacs