Figures on road accidents published to mark Europe's first Road Safety Day, show big gaps between European states.
In 2006, the Baltic states had more than three times as many road deaths per head of population than the top performers - Sweden, Holland and Malta.
And while France, Luxembourg and Portugal have cut road deaths by more than 40% since 2001, in four countries the situation has got worse.
The UK has a low death rate but has made little progress since 2001.
The figures make clear that the EU is not on target to meet its goal to halve road deaths from nearly 50,000 in 2001, to 25,000 by 2010.
But Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot says the objective can still be achieved if governments draw lessons from the figures about policies that work.
Across the EU, road deaths were down 8% in 2006, compared with 2005.
The statistics show that:
- Up to 30% of road deaths in some countries occurred in accidents where at least one driver had drunk more than the legal limit
- About half of all drivers do not respect speed limits
- In most European countries more than three quarters of drivers and front-seat passengers wear seat-belts
- In some European countries, including Ireland and Portugal, less than half of rear-seat passengers wear seat-belts
According to the European Commission, France's success in reducing road deaths by 42% between 2001 and 2006 has saved 3,500 lives.
In the same period, the UK has reduced its fatalities by 7%. It was outperformed by both Sweden and the Netherlands which both had more road deaths per million inhabitants in 2001 and now have fewer.
Germany, Finland and Denmark are also reducing fatalities faster than the UK, the figures show.
Road travel in the EU is most dangerous in Greece and the Central and Eastern European countries which joined the bloc in 2004.
Lithuania, Romania, Hungary and Estonia had more road deaths in 2006 than 2001 - possibly a reflection of a rapid increase in the number of cars on the road.
Within Western Europe, northern countries tend to be safer than southern countries. An exception to the rule is Malta, which has the lowest number of road deaths per million inhabitants, and per million cars.