THERE MAY ALWAYS be white-knuckled fliers, but they should know that a far greater threat to travelers these days is right here on the ground: your basic, everyday hair-raising encounter at almost any intersection with The Red Light Runner. We're talking about the running of red lights in this city, which is no seasonal occurrence. It is a deadly serious matter too much of the time now, and we're proposing an all-out police crackdown of the toughest kind.

There is nothing ambiguous about a red light. It means STOP. Right there. But increasingly, it is being interpreted in this city as a challenge to race through an intersection before any motorist with a green light can hit the accelerator (and anything else that flies past the hood ornament at high speed). Sometimes it's more than one car that blows through the red, too; we have seen them two abreast as well as bumper-to-bumper, long after the lights have gone full red.

Anyone conditioned to go on green reflexively is in trouble; better to take a deep breath, look both ways and creep. And heaven help you if you are a mere pedestrian, responding to a request that you "WALK (flash) WALK (flash) WALK." If the Right on Red Brigade doesn't pick you off, the Red Light Runner will take a shot.

No more pleadings to please obey the rules: let the police move in with a vengeance, throwing the book at offenders. Just as Washington got a reputation for enforcing parking rules downtown, it should earn one for arresting red-runners. This violation, dangerous as it is, has become epidemic. The police should take action. They should announce a crack-down and hit every offender with the $75 fine and the two points on the driver's license (three if the offense contributes to an accident). And if that doesn't change things, consider doubling the fine as well as the point- spread.

One way or another, this city has got to put a stop to not stopping on red.