The French government has been blasted over plans to reduce the speed limit on France’s secondary road network by 10kph (6mph).

The new regulations, which are intended to cut France’s climbing road death figures, will see the limits on two-way roads outside towns and cities fall from 90kph (56mph) to 80kph (50mph).

French prime minister Edouard Philippe has been a key exponent of the speed limit reduction, and he took to Twitter to explain the new rules.

‘More than half of fatal accidents occur on the two-way roads of the secondary network that don’t have separation walls. The speed limit there will be lowered from 90 to 80kph,’ he said.

However, the move has been branded ‘absurd’ by the French motoring group 40 Million Motorists.

‘This highly unpopular measure is restrictive for motorists and disabling for the economy,’ said the group’s president, Daniel Quero.

‘The decision is absurd because it has no basis. The only pseudo-argument advanced by the defenders of this measure is a mathematical theorem developed by a Swedish researcher in the 1980s. It does not take into account the current realities of the state of roads, nor the safety performance of modern vehicles,’ he continued.

Philippe has also faced considerable backlash on social media, with many claiming that the new limits are only being introduced to raise money.

Twitter user Meghzel Fatima said: ‘Yes, but of course we are not gullible. It’s just extra disguised taxes.’

Others claim that the move doesn’t tackle the real problems with French road safety.

Another Twitter user, Ackinom55, said: ‘The real causes of accidents are the condition and equipment of the roads… Changing the speed limit from 90 to 80kph will not change anything – you’re having a laugh.’

Despite the criticism, Philippe defended the decision, saying: ‘Let's be clear. The measures we are announcing today meets one criterion and one alone: their effectiveness to reduce the number and severity of accidents.

‘Speed is the leading cause of injuries in France. Even when the speed is not the primary cause of the accident, it will determine either its onset, severity, or even both at the same time.’