DEAR ABBY: Last summer my son nearly died as the result of a car accident. Please print this letter to help ease a mother's conscience for not having said these things to the appropriate people some time ago. Do not disclose my name or city. Let those who have done similar deeds believe that these words are meant for them, because they are:

To the couple who stopped to call the police: Thank you!To the paramedics who faced that gruesome scene willingly, and worked tirelessly in the middle of the night: Thank you!

To the emergency nurse and receptionist who held my son's hand: Thank you!

To the surgeon who skillfully set his broken bones and tediously stitched each laceration: Thank you!

To the eight people whose blood flowed through my son's veins for a few precious hours: Thank you!

To the intensive-care nurses who sustained his life, and made him a part of theirs: Thank you!

To all of you: I cannot begin to put into two little words what will fill my heart forever. Please accept them as a symbol of something that never could be measured - a mother's love and gratitude. Thank you! - MOM

DEAR MOM: Your gracious letter provides an opportunity to offer these words of caution to anyone who gets behind the wheel of an automobile: Please drive carefully, alertly and defensively.

DEAR ABBY: Last September I clipped a chart from McCall's magazine that certainly opened my eyes, and I think it will open the eyes of every sexually active female who reads your column - that's why I'm sending it. It appears that no matter what kind of birth control method is used, the failure rate is astonishing. - GRIFFIN, GA., GRANDMOTHER

DEAR GRANDMOTHER: You're right, and I thank you for sending it. The failure rate for contraceptives, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, is as follows:The reason for failure can be failure to follow instructions, carelessness or just "bad luck." But whatever the reason, the statistics are both frightening and enlightening.

"So, what method is 100 percent safe?" you ask.

As the timeworn joke goes: "Eat an apple." "Before or after?" you ask. "INSTEAD, silly!"

Say goodnight, Gracie.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY CHINESE FRIENDS: Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Translation: "Happy New Year!") Since this is the Year of the Ram, let's hope it's a good omen for that Los Angeles football team.

"How to Be Popular" is for everyone who feels left out and wants an improved social life. It's an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person. To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada), to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054. (Postage is included.)