The numbers are telling: Traffic-related incidents take more lives in Omaha than do homicides. In 2018 the totals were 22 homicides, compared with 37 traffic deaths.
Mayor Jean Stothert cited those numbers in announcing that Omaha is joining Vision Zero, an international initiative that aims to eliminate traffic-related deaths through sound transportation planning and community coordination. This is an encouraging and much-needed step in the effort to reduce the troubling number of such deaths.
The goal obviously is daunting and the complications are many, but the cause is worthy, not least given the recent traffic-related deaths of children in the Omaha area. Encouraging safe habits by all — drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, scooter operators — is sensible and imperative.
This project will unfold slowly and carefully, as the city develops partnerships with a range of local institutions to create a coordinated effort. The city’s 2020 budget includes funding for a Vision Zero coordinator.
Achieving significant progress will mean broad participation by local entities including nonprofits and school systems. The city can do its part through better signage and other safety measures at intersections, stronger traffic enforcement and reduced speed limits in selected areas.
But the burden also falls on the general public. We all need to stop being so distracted by our technology and devote more attention to our surroundings while behind the wheel or otherwise traveling.
It’s going to take a team effort, indeed.