Drive safely regardless of season

Spring is in full swing here in Eastern Ohio, and people all around us are enjoying the warm temperatures, blue skies and blooming flowers.

We cannot, however, allow such things to distract us when we are behind the wheel of a vehicle. Regardless of how pretty the countryside around us may be, we must keep our focus on the road and on other vehicles around us.

Earlier this month, two tragic accidents occurred in a single weekend. In each crash, a death occurred. The reaction on social media makes it clear that those incidents claimed two beloved residents of the region.

First, on May 4, 80-year-old Betsy Dodd of Barnesville was a passenger in a car driven by Marion Dimmerling, 71, also of Barnesville. As they approached Bethesda on Ohio 147, a Kia Forte driven by 21-year-old Bethesda resident Courtney Otto veered left of center, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The Kia struck the Buick head-on, injuring both drivers. Dodd was transported to Wheeling Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

A few hours later on May 5, Kyle Gatten, 27, of Yorkville died in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 70 in Richland Township. His Dodge pick-up truck veered off the right side of the interstate, the patrol said, and overturned. Gatten was not wearing a seat belt and was pronounced dead at the scene.

We do not know the cause of either accident, as both remain under investigation by the patrol. Distracted driving may not have played any role at all.

Still, these deadly incidents should remind the rest of us that we cannot let our guard down on the road simply because hazardous winter weather conditions are a thing of the past for now.

All sorts of factors can lead to an auto accident. Among some of the most common causes are driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, texting while driving, hydroplaning during heavy rain and traveling at a high rate of speed.

Drivers can help protect themselves and others by always being on alert while behind the wheel. Put the cellphone down, buckle your safety belt, obey traffic laws and concentrate on the task at hand – which is getting safely to your destination.

If we all take such precautions while making our way from place to place, it is much more likely that we will get through the summer season without another weekend being marred by tragedy.