COLUMBUS (WCMH) – As deer mating season begins, the Ohio State Highway Patrol is warning drivers to be alert on the roadways.

Throughout Ohio, over 17,000 deer-vehicle crashes were reported statewide last year, according to OSHP. Those crashes resulted in three deaths and 857 injuries.

Ohio state troopers believe the number of crashes is probably much higher due to several going unreported.

“A regular road trooper may be in one of those rural counties, could have as many as two or three deer crashes across a shift,” said Sgt. Brice Nihiser, spokesperson for Ohio State Highway Patrol.

During this time of year, Nihiser said troopers like himself encounter more deer crashes due to mating season, which runs from October to December, which is why he’s advising people to take it slow and be aware when driving on rural roads.

Nihiser also advises drivers to use their high beams if there’s no oncoming traffic and to not try to avoid a deer in the road and instead, slow down but don’t swerve.

“Our advice for motorists is if you see a deer in the roadway, just make sure that you’re applying your brakes, that you’re not swerving,” he said. “Swerving can often lead to an injury crash, and we just want to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

If you do happen to collide with a deer, authorities say it’s best to avoid making contact with the animal in case it becomes frightened or aggressive due to its injuries.