WHETHER YOU ARE A motorist, passenger or pedestrian, you should consider the streets of Washington perilous in traffic for more than meets the eye when accidents occur -- because about half the motorists in town have no insurance. The answer, as a majority of the D.C. Council appears now to realize, should be prompt passage of a no-fault insurance law to protect accident victims without the necessity of expensive lawyers' fees. As you may guess, most lawyers don't like this arrangement and lobby against it with fervor whenever any legislators schedule a vote on no-fault.

The usual ploy is to substitute a bill that only requires automobile insurance -- and leaves out the no-fault part, which is what cuts out lawyers and cuts in consumers for swifter, more equitable compensation. Under no-fault, instead of going to court for long and costly lawsuits -- and neither your lawyers nor those of the insurance companies work for free -- victims would collect directly from insurance companies without legal hassles or delays.

Opponents of no-fault like to sing the praises of the "right to sue," which they prefer to the right to fast and direct compensation for the majority of personal injury claims. But others who sell or buy insurance, or who have been caught in accidents where nobody had any insurance, are growing increasingly sick and tired of the litigation game. That is why coalitions of business, labor insurance firms and groups representing consumers and the elderly have long sought enactment of no-fault insurance throughout the country.

At last count, there appeared to be enough votes on the council to pass a genuine no-fault insurance bill -- not simply a mandatory insurance bill, which the lawyers would substitute. Consideration of no-fault by the full council -- which has had this idea before it for years -- should not be blocked any longer. No-fault protection can't come too soon to Washington's streets.