BALTIMORE (AP) _ A trucker who calls himself Santy Claus on his citizens band radio says he usually draws friendly waves when he decorates his 18-wheeler with Christmas lights. But a Maryland police officer was not amused and gave him a $20 ticket.

David W. Reiber, 44, of Westville, N.J., was ticketed Tuesday by an officer at the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel who said the lights around Reiber's front license plate violated state law.

Except for headlights, the law says, vehicles can have in front only lamps or reflectors that ''display or reflect an amber color.''

Reiber's truck has amber lights - and bright yellow, blue, red and green ones. There's a plastic Santa Claus mounted over the radiator grille, to boot.

The truck driver had a chance to avoid the ticket, but that would have meant removing the Christmas lights, which he says he won't do.

He said Wednesday he has put Christmas ornaments on his truck for the past 20 Decembers, drawing only positive reaction from people, including police, who see him on his daily round trip between Philadelphia and Baltimore.

''You'd be surprised what this thing does for people,'' Reiber said. ''You'll get a laugh out of them, a smile, a little crack out of the side of the face.''

But at the Harbor Tunnel toll plaza Tuesday, Toll Facilities Officer Glenn Trowbridge warned him that if he came through the tunnel again with the lights on, he would be ticketed.

Reiber said he responded, ''If you're going to give me a ticket if I come through tomorrow, you might as well give it now 'cause I'm coming through.''

The trooper then wrote out the ticket.

Trowbridge, who had a day off Thursday and could not be reached for comment, said through the police agency's spokesman, Thomas E. Freburger, that he would give his account of the incident in court.

Freburger said ''the officer was using his judgment'' in issuing a ticket. Trowbridge felt the lights could be hazardous or confusing on roadways, the spokesman said.

''He may have been a little overzealous,'' Freburger said. ''Mr. Reiber will, of course, get a fair hearing in court.''

But the trucker said he probably will just pay the $20 - and any other tickets Trowbridge writes.

Freburger said, ''It's unfortunate he's going to take the stance that he's going to flout the law.''