French PM Edouard Philippe announced that there were 3,259 deaths on the country's roads in 2018.
That's down from for 3,448 deaths the previous year and represents a record low for the number of road fatalities.
“There has never been such a low number of deaths of the French roads,” said Philippe. “These figures are historic”.
Philippe added that the controversial cut to the speed limit from 90km/h to 80 km/h on secondary roads had saved 116 lives, evidence that he believes shows it would be a mistake to row back on the reform.
“When we made this decision (to cut the speed limit] we took on our responsibility.
“We made a decision that we knew was unpopular […] but that produce results and did not seem to us to bring into question the way our fellow citizens can travel around. We are proud of the results and of those lives saved,” said Philippe.
“We are proud to have taken on our responsibility.”
— Edouard Philippe (@EPhilippePM) January 28, 2019
The number of deaths rose for three straight years between 2014 and 2016 and near-stagnated in 2017 before falling to the historic low last year.
But road deaths actually started to fall at the start of 2018 before the new speed limit cut was implemented in July of that year, something those against the measure have been quick to pick up on.
“Death rates had generally been slowing down, even a year before the speed limit,” said the French drivers' organisation 40 millions d'automobilistes.
Many people in France oppose the speed limit change
A recent poll showed that a majority of French people – especially those who live in rural areas – want the reform abolished and it has emerged as one of the 'Yellow Vests' major gripes.
According to the interior ministry, 60% of the country's speed cameras have been vandalised in recent months as the protests have grown.
Although the fall in deaths will be good news for defenders of the measure, President Emmanuel Macron has shown signs that he is open to discussing reform it once more.
“We must find a more intelligent way to implement this together” Macron told 600 mayors earlier on this month.
He was addressing them as part of the two-month “Grand National Debate” which he launched this month aimed at quelling the “yellow vest” anger over inequality and Macron's perceived indifference to the struggles of rural and small-town France.