An EU report has ranked Ireland as one of the worst countries for reducing road deaths.

The study, carried out by the European Transport Safety Council, examines the road safety record of 27 EU countries between 2001 and 2005.

It ranks Ireland fifth from the bottom for reducing road deaths, ahead of Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Malta and Lithuania.

During that period, there was a 3% reduction in road deaths in Ireland. In comparison France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Portugal reduced road deaths by between 25% and 35%.

The report said that political commitment to improve enforcement was central to the success of these countries.

Speeding

The study also found that little progress has been made in relation to reducing speeding throughout the EU.

Between 2003 and 2005 speeding on rural roads in Ireland had reduced, but it increased on regional and national roads and motorways.

Ireland performed more successfully when it came to front-seat seatbelt wearing, with compliance levels of between 86%. However, the country is among the worst for buckling up in the back seat, with just a 46% compliance rate.

The study comes as new figures show that there has been a huge surge in the number of people driving on a sixth or subsequent provisional licence.

In 2003 there were just 88 people on such a licence but that figure jumped to more than 15,000 in 2006.

The data does not take mandatory breath testing into account, but the European Transport Safety Council said the incoming Government will still need to put the issue at the top of its agenda.

The report's author, Francisca Achterberg, says Ireland can learn from the French example where road deaths have dropped by 35%.