THE CAVALCADES now begin days before the official holiday weekend, but today the turkey trekkers will be fanning out in earnest, jamming the highways and taxing law enforcement authorities. The customary safety warnings need to be underscored. Drivers and their kids should be buckled up, and drivers should be sober.

One survey released this week shows that most Americans know it's the law that children must be buckled up and that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death to children. Yet 13 percent of those who regularly drive children ages 12 and under admit they don't always make sure the children are buckled up.

Janet Dewey, executive director of the Air Bag & Seat Belt Safety Campaign, says the organization also found that three out of four drivers who admit this know it's the law that children must be buckled up. The result: One out of four children--15 million--are riding completely unbuckled and at risk. Some 70 percent of Americans report that they get angry when they spot unbuckled kids on the road. They have good reason, because six out of 10 children who die in crashes are unbuckled. Of those, nearly half would be alive had they been buckled.

The most effective attitude-adjuster is police action. More than 7,000 law enforcement agencies will conduct the largest-ever crackdown in the 50 states; tens of thousands of officers will be ticketing drivers with children who are not properly restrained.

Police also will have low tolerances for high drivers. Though alcohol-related traffic deaths dropped 30 percent between 1982 and 1996, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, deaths have dropped by only 7 percent since then. The organizations blame indifference on the part of government leaders and the perception of citizens "that the war against drunk driving already has been won." It hasn't.