WE COULD HAVE waited until Tuesday for a New Year's Eve warning about drinking and driving -- but judging from what we've seen on the roads around town already, we're late as it is. The weavers and shakers have been on the roads nightly -- zigzagging home from holiday fuelings in frightening fashion. Though New Year's Eve may be worse, you get the impression that the big drinkers -- those who dismiss The Eve as amateur night for revelers -- are already into their tightening rounds. Some won't make it to another holiday, anyway; others may suddenly turn into killers.

Police around the region aren't being all that shy about setting up sobriety checkpoints -- they plan many more and want everyone aware of it. At the same time, various organizations are arranging free rides for ainker who has no sober driver for the trip home. Some party goers are making arrangements to sleep where they celebrate; and others are vowing to reinforce the camaraderie of the evening by taking car keys from any tipsy friend who threatens to hit the road and anything that's on it.

It's unrealistic and ineffective to expect that people won't drink during the holidays or even any other time. But drinkers can find or designate sober drivers for each occasion. The consequences of not doing so have been horrible. Drunk driving is the chief killer of kids 15 to 24. It is also the most frequently committed violent crime in America. Why become one of its statistics?