WE HAVE DEVOTED many lines in this space to warnings about one of the fast-rising threats to life and limb around town -- the red-light runner. It's not entirely clear what happened to the good old red-means-stop message, but on any day you choose, on almost any busy corner, you can see these culprits brushing by terrified pedestrians and moving right across the bows of vehicles going on green. So prevalent is this flagrant lawbreaking that it has even made the green light a dangerous come-on.

Only yesterday an 8-year-old boy was struck and killed by a car while crossing a street on the way to school. A crossing guard managed to shove several other children out of the path of the car but was unable to protect the boy, authorities said. Witnesses told police the car ran a red light. The driver was charged with automobile manslaughter, reckless driving, speeding, failure to obey a traffic signal and failure to yield to a pedestrian.

There were other close calls at intersections yesterday -- frightening incidents that don't get reported because they don't happen to include direct hits. But how many deaths will it take before drivers obey red lights and spare themselves and others tragedy?

For those who still may not realize it or who may not care a lot, let us repeat a reminder from Metropolitan Police officer Fred Thompson: the crosswalk is a part of the intersection, and if you drive into it on red, you have run the light. In the District that can mean a $75 fine and two points on your driver's license.

Maybe it should mean more than that. And maybe in the city and suburbs alike, more police officers should be posted at busy intersections to spot and ticket every red-runner they sight. Will any mayor, county executive or other top official step out and give the order?