LOS ANGELES – Lindsay Lohan is showing a lot of leg, and it is not sexy at all.

The 18-year-old actress and current tabloid obsession, looking much blonder and thinner than we’re used to in all those voluptuous redheaded magazine glamour shots, stretches out her bare freckled limb across a chair in the bedroom of her Century City hotel suite to point out numerous cuts and bruises that are still evident following her May 31 traffic accident.

An overzealous celebrity photographer intentionally rammed his vehicle into Lohan’s black Mercedes-Benz as she tried to make a U-turn at the intersection of West 3rd Street and Sweetzer Avenue in Los Angeles. He was arrested and later released on $35,000 bond.

The accident, which touched off a heated debate in Hollywood over the behavior of celebrity photographers, left Lohan shaken and just a little bewildered.

“What I don’t get is that I’m always so nice to them,” she said in her characteristic deep raspy voice. “I let them take their pictures. I’m not nasty toward them at all.”

The actress, whose new movie “Herbie: Fully Loaded” opens Wednesday, said her ankle was “gushing blood” after the accident, and that her 19-year-old friend who was a passenger in the car was dazed from hitting her head on the dashboard.

“My door was jammed from where his car hit me, and I had to be cut out of the car,” Lohan said. “What if a fire had broken out? I would have been trapped.”

It is doubtful there would have been any help forthcoming from the paparazzo or the dozen or so photographer friends he called after the accident. They were too busy shooting pictures.

“I was so angry,” she said. “I just kept saying: “Take your pictures … are you happy now?”

The incident capped what has been a tumultuous year for the actress, both professionally and personally.

Her career couldn’t be better. She is earning $7.5 million a movie (the highest salary for any actor of her generation), a romantic comedy produced by Bruce Willis is completed and she is about to begin filming a movie opposite Meryl Streep. Her first album, “Speak,” sold two million copies.

As for her private life, just pick up a tabloid or turn on the TV. It’s all there ­- the stories about her father serving a prison term, the rumors about excessive partying and drug use, the feud with another young actress, the romantic trysts with men more than twice her age and the weight loss.

Ah, the weight loss. The diet that launched a thousand tabloid headlines.

According to Lohan, it started when she was hospitalized for exhaustion during the “Herbie: Fully Loaded” shoot. She remained in the hospital for five days, trying to rest her body from a grueling schedule that required her to film the movie during the day while recording her debut album at night.

“I lost 25 pounds in the hospital, and I liked how it felt. I know some of my friends were concerned, but I actually felt healthy for the first time in a long time. On the “Herbie’ set, I was eating all the time. I was living on junk food, and it made me feel lousy.

“So, when I got out of the hospital, I just kept eating healthy. I like how I feel at this weight, and I don’t know why everybody’s making such a big deal out of it. Everyone’s really thin right now.”

The blond hair is for an upcoming movie role. She vehemently denies any drug use or frequent partying. The feud with Hilary Duff is history. The thought of dating older men creeps her out. She still insists her breasts were never surgically enhanced, although it’s now a moot point since her weight loss has taken a toll on her former curvaceous figure.

And her father, who has had numerous run-ins with the law and is now divorced from Lindsay’s mother (a former Rockette who manages Lindsay’s career), is a subject she would just as soon not discuss. She has said publicly that she still loves her father, who has had drug and alcohol problems and is now serving a term for driving under the influence of drugs.

“You wouldn’t know it from the tabloids, but I’ve got my life completely under control,” the young actress said with no hint of irony. “I know I’ve grown up real fast, and have a lot of responsibilities and personal issues, but it’s never been anywhere near as bad as it sounds in the media.”

“They act like I go out and party all the time. Well, I don’t. I haven’t got time to do all the things they say I do.

“People don’t realize that my parents never restrained me, so I never had the need to rebel against anything. I’ve been exposed to so much and worked with adults my whole life, so I don’t need to go crazy and get wasted every night.

“But it sells magazines, I suppose, and it gives people something to talk about.”

In “Herbie: Fully Loaded,” a sequel to the 1969 Disney film “The Love Bug,” Lohan plays a third generation race car driver who falls in love with an old Volkswagen Beetle that has a mind of its own and the heart (and engine) of a race car. The pair ends up in the mostly unlikely of places – a NASCAR track.

After this film, the actress said she will look for more adult roles in the hope of building a long career.

“People misunderstand the kind of person I am. I know a lot of people think of me as just an immature 18-year-old who’s always in the tabloids. They think I’ll disappear from view real soon. But I’m not going anywhere. I plan to be around for a long time.

“I’ll stop being in the tabloids as soon as everybody realizes that I’m a boring person and not that interesting. Then I can get on with my career as an actress. I’m looking forward to that day.”

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