DOES ANYONE REALLY pay any attention to all the public service announcements about drunk driving during the holidays? Doesn't it go without saying that people are likely to be downing a drop or two of Yule fuel before motoring home? Why bother with a warning on such an age-old subject?

Better to spend the space on ways to prevent crime, to curb violent murders, to make our streets safer, to improve public health and to ensure smooth highway and in-city transportation--things people are genuinely worried about, right?

Absolutely. Every night, Greater Washington is swarming with potential killers--armed with deadly weapons and mentally unaware of their propensity to take lives, to threaten public health and to bar the direct and safe passage of innocent travelers. They are drunk drivers, and their prevalence is horrifying; drunk driving is the most frequently committed violent crime, accounting last year for 25,000 deaths and 650,000 serious injuries across the country.

Still, the drunk driver is somebody else, not anyone we know or can keep off the road. Besides, you can spot them by the way their vehicles tend to swerve . . . or can you?

Many who have lost friends or relatives in traffic accidents wish that were the case, but know better. And this year, more than usual, they have aroused the concern of local government leaders and law enforcement authorities. Last week, in fact, representatives of every jurisdiction in this region came together under the auspices of Maryland Rep. Michael Barnes to agree on a region-wide, coordinated holiday crackdown on all drivers who have been drinking.

Sobriety checkpoints are being set up, as well as no-questions-asked rides and other information services. Prosecution will be vigorous. The conclusion should be obvious--but will it be?