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A Study on Salt

Article reprinted with permission from AAA Today Magazine
The application of salt on ice and snow-covered roads reduces traffic accidents by almost 90 percent and cuts the cost of accidents that occur by as much as 30 percent. 

These are the major findings of a Marquette University study, "Accident Analysis of Ice Control Operations," released as drivers and pedestrians cope with snow and ice. 

The first statistically-valid research into road de-icing’s safety benefits in North America, the study compared accident rates before and after salt spreading in four New York counties (Courtland, Monroe, Tompkins, and Wayne) and locations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. 

It showed that the application of salt on snowy and icy roads reduces accidents by 88% on two lane roads and 85% on highways. 

The dramatic reduction in vehicle accidents and the resulting traffic delays as a result of salt application can accurately be characterized as "profit on taxpayers investment in de-icing," said Marquette Associate Professor David A. Kuemmel, the head of the research team. 

Specific benefits of road salting include: 

Salt reduces the cost of such accidents by 30 percent on highways and ten percent on two-lane roads, and their severity.  The ratio of injury cost to property damage costs dropped by 200 percent in highway accidents and 30 percent on two-lane road accidents after the application of salt. 

The cost of applying salt to icy roads pays for itself within 90 minutes in terms of direct road user benefits, which reached $6.50 for every dollar spent on salting. 

Temperatures Effect on Salt

TEMP FARENHEITLBS. OF ICE MELTED BY 1 LB OF SALTEFFECTIVENESS
30 Degrees46.3#100%
25 Degrees14.4#31%
20 Degrees8.6#18.5%
15 Degrees6.3#13.6%
10 Degrees4.9#10.5%
5 Degrees4.1#8.8%
0 Degrees3.7#8.0%
-6 Degrees3.2#6.9%

NOTE THE LARGE DROP OF EFFECTIVENESS FROM 30 DEGREES TO 25 DEGREES (100% DOWN TO 31%).  BRINE IS ADDED TO THE SALT AS A CATALYST TO MAKE IT MORE EFFECTIVE AT LOWER TEMPERATURES.  BRINE IS ADDED TO DRY ROADWAY PRIOR TO A SNOW AND ICE EVENT TO PREVENT INITIAL SLIPPERY CONDITIONS AT THE ROAD SURFACE.