The warning has implications for companies who employ foreign drivers as well as those who have workers using the UK’s roads.
The advice follows the publication of a new report – European Drivers – Crossing Borders Safely – by the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which found that foreign drivers caused 18,000 road crashes in the UK in 2006 – a 47% rise since 2001.
The most dramatic rise was with Lithuanian drivers, who caused 746 crashes last year compared to just one in 2001.
But it was Polish drivers who caused the most crashes – 3,132 – of any foreign driver group.
Workers who drive abroad must be made aware of the rules of the road in the countries they are driving in, or fleet operators will be failing to meet their duty-of-care obligations.
The advice comes on the back of new research which found that UK drivers were involved in 5,000 accidents while driving in Europe last year.
“More effective action is needed at both a national and European level to ensure that we can enjoy all the benefits of a larger single market without compromising road safety,” said Stephen Haddrill, ABI director general.
The ABI has called for improvements in the sharing of information. So far just 11 countries have signed up to the EUCARIS system, which allows driver and licence information to be checked by other EU countries.
With so few countries signing up to EUCARIS, it remains difficult for fleet managers to check the validity of a foreign driver’s licence or whether it has endorsements.
Cathy Keeler, from road safety charity Brake, said: “This report confirms what Brake already feared: the lack of coordination of driving legislation and enforcement across Europe means drivers feel they can get away with not sticking to, or understanding, local laws.”
A coalition of motoring and road safety groups has been established by the ABI to investigate the extent of the problem and recommend action.