(CNN)Close to two-thirds of France's fixed speed cameras have been vandalized by yellow-vest protesters since November, as demonstrators revolt against lowered speed limits introduced by the government last year.
Gilets jaunes protesters vandalize 60% of France's speed cameras
A spokesman for the French Ministry of the Interior told CNN that 60% of fixed speed cameras have been damaged by gilets jaunes demonstrators since November 17, when the protests erupted.
"I saw on social networks a few fools who appear next to burnt speed cameras. I do not wish for them to one day face the reality of a death on the road. It's not about figures, it's about life," Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters Thursday.
Emmanuel Barbe, the head of France's road safety agency, also warned that vandalism of the country's speed cameras will likely lead to more deaths. "This damage to the speed camera network... will lead to deaths. And that makes me profoundly sad," he told France Inter.
According to the French site radars-auto.com, the proportion of cameras damaged by protesters could be as high as 65%.
French news agency Europe 1 estimated in December that around half of all speed cameras in France had been put out of service for either a short or long period of time, while close to 300 devices had been completely destroyed -- in most cases after being burnt. Other devices have been spray-painted or covered in film.
In some departments including the Vaucluse in southeast France, upward of 90% of speed cameras were put out of service following protests in November and December.
The French government's road safety association, Sécurité routière, previously refused to release official statistics on the precise number of speed cameras that had been affected during the protests. The organization has not responded to a CNN request for comment.
This spike in vandalism is seen as a response to the French government's controversial decision in July 2018 to lower speed limits to 80 kilometers per hour (50 miles per hour) from 90 kilometers per hour (56 miles per hour) on two-lane highways in a bid to reduce a sharp rise in road deaths.
The change affects 40% of France's road network, and around 250,000 miles of roads. The French government indicated that the measure could help avoid between 350 and 400 road deaths a year.
"Unsafe roads are not inevitable," Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said in 2018. "Lowering speed reduces the number of accidents, as well as the severity of these accidents."
He also told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper: "There are 3,500 deaths and 70,000 injured each year -- 70,000! After decades of progress, the toll is getting w