I think it worth mentioning that the D.C. Metrorail made very little contribution to keeping the streets and highways safe on New Year's Eve. Given the eternal rage against drunk driving, I felt certain that the rails would operate during the most infamous of holidays. I was quite wrong, however, as I learned Dec. 31, when an announcement came over the loudspeaker in Metro Center declaring that the trains would stop running at 2 a.m. and not resume until 10 a.m. on Jan. 1.

Having been invited to a party easily accessible from a Metro station, I would have felt greatly relieved to ride the train. As it was, I had to drive on Interstate 95, the George Washington Parkway and innumerable residential roads. I was entirely at the mercy of any drunkard who happened to get behind the wheel, just as anyone else on the road was at the mercy of my judgment.

It is bad enough that current legislation and enforcement grant drunk drivers virtual immunity from legal retribution, but the closing of the most popular public transportation system in the area left them no choice but to drive. I am aware that goodwill groups offer rides to people too inebriated to drive, but how many of the people in need of such help are responsible enough to make this judgment? No amount of criticism for the authorities who chose not to run the rails would be unjustified.

DAVID SPORN Washington