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NOT ALL TOYS ARE KID STUFF, OFFICIALS SAY PARENTS TOLD ABOUT POCKET BIKES' RISKS.

Byline: Jennifer Radcliffe Staff Writer

VAN NUYS - With the launch of the holiday shopping season, top city leaders warned parents Monday to steer clear of dangerous toys, including the popular ``pocket bikes'' and motorized scooters.

Even bikes and scooters without motors can be dangerous if children don't wear the proper helmets and pads, officials said during a press conference at the Hazeltine Avenue Elementary School on Monday. Parents also need to watch for toys that pose choking, toxicity and strangulation hazards, experts warned.

``Our message today is we don't want toys to kill children,'' Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said. ``We want our children to enjoy their holiday toys.''

Officials warned against purchasing recently recalled toys, which include Playskool's Magic Start Crawl 'n Stand toy, which reportedly tips over during use; Sassy Inc.'s Soft Rattles, which pose a choking hazard; and Fisher-Price's Crib Mobile Toys, which was reported to have leaky batteries.

A complete list of dangerous and recalled toys can be found at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site at www.cpsc.gov.

But the main target of Monday's event was the pocket bike.

Stuntmen demonstrated to about 100 children Monday that drivers of cars and trucks might not be able to see children riding the 2-foot-tall minimotorcycles.

While the children understood the dangers, they said they're still pretty awed by the bikes, which are only legal on private property.

``They're dangerous and cool,'' 9-year-old Frank Sanchez said after watching the stuntman on the pocket bike narrowly escape the grille of a pickup truck.

Pocket bikes cannot be driven on streets or sidewalks because they violate 15 different vehicle codes, police said. Many of the bikes don't have brake lights or headlights, for example.

``The LAPD is going to enforce the rules,'' Capt. Ronald Marbrey said. ``We'll be out there looking for these bikes.''

Full-page newspaper ads promoting the $300-plus bikes don't tell parents that the vehicles are dangerous and only for private property.

``This is what we're up against,'' said Pat Hines - executive director of Safe Moves, a nonprofit group - holding up a colorful advertisement. ``They are not toys. These are devices that can cause death and injury.''

In 2003, there were 11 toy-related deaths and 155,400 toy-related injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Because pocket bikes just became popular in the area this year, there are no statistics available on how many deaths or injuries they've caused, county officials said.

Councilman Dennis Zine said he hopes the public awareness campaign will help avoid large statistics.

``This is a tragedy waiting to happen,'' he warned. ``Don't purchase these.''

The bikes weren't at the top of the Hazeltine children's list. They opted for more traditional gift requests, such as puppies, Barbies and PlayStations.

But students said they learned from the experts, who told children to always wear helmets and pads.

``You can get hurt real badly,'' 7-year-old Adrian Gomez said.

Parents must resist the pressure to buy their children dangerous toys, Greuel said, adding that she's already noticed her 16-month-old son eyeing colorful toy catalogs.

``They'll get over it. They'll move on to the next toy and they'll forget,'' she said. ``Pick those toys that are safe.''

For more information on recalled toys, check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site at www.cpsc.gov or call its toll-free hotline at (800) 638-2772.

Jennifer Radcliffe, (818) 713-3722

jennifer.radcliffe(at)dailynews.com

TOY SAFETY CHECKLIST

--Select age-appropriate toys. Toys too advanced could pose safety hazards to younger children.

--Avoid giving toys with small parts that could be choking hazards to infants and toddlers.

--Look for sturdy construction on plush toys, such as tightly secured eyes and noses.

--Avoid toys with sharp edges and points, especially for children under 8.

--Do not purchase electric toys with heating elements for children under 8.

--Read labels for safety recommendations.

--Immediately discard toys' plastic wrappings, which can cause suffocation.

Source: Safe Moves

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, box

Photo:

(1) Stuntman Mike Washlake rides a pocket bike in front of a truck to show kids how the driver can't see the little two-wheeler.

(2) Pat Hines of Safe Moves holds up an ad for pocket bikes. She points out ads don't mention they aren't street-legal.

David Sprague/Staff Photographer

Box:

TOY SAFETY CHECKLIST (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 30, 2004
Words:720
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