Even though the deputies were wearing official green pants with yellow stripes and shiny, knee-high black boots, the children at University Elementary School seemed more in awe of the gleaming white Kawasaki motorcycles parked in front of them Tuesday.
That is the point of bringing the flashy bikes to the Thousand Oaks Police Department Traffic Bureau's presentation on pedestrian safety, explained Deputy Dan Ambarian.
"You're kids," Ambarian told the students, who listened attentively under trees overlooking the school's parking lot. "You're supposed to have fun seven days a week. But if you're not safe, you won't have a good time . . . you might end up in the hospital."
The deputy's warning came about two weeks after a University Elementary School student was hit while riding her bike near Cal Lutheran University. Principal Ev Eaton said the 11-year-old girl, a new student to the Conejo Valley Unified School District, was wearing her helmet when she was hit and dragged by a truck.
She suffered a skull fracture and a broken leg, arm and fingers, as well as a cracked pelvis, and is now in a rehabilitation center at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard, Eaton said.
To emphasize the danger of moving vehicles, Senior Deputy Bill Therrien took a small boy and compared his frame to that of his motorcycle.
"Cars weigh about 4,000 pounds," Therrien said. "You little guys probably weigh 55 pounds."
In addition to reminding children to wear protective gear while biking, in-line skating and skating, the deputies told the youngsters not to talk to "bad strangers." Therrien suggested that the children make up a secret code that only they and their parents--and maybe a close friend or two of the family--know in order to identify that the person is OK to talk to.