For anyone who lives in an area where winter can get very severe, there is the task of dealing with ice on the roads and sidewalks around town. Often, municipalities put down salt on icy roads. What is it about salt that helps make driving conditions safer? Here is some background on the use of salt on roads, and how using salt on a road can make a big difference.
Most people are aware that rain and melting snow can turn into ice. When this ice sets up on the roadways, there is a need to break down the icy layer, making it possible for tires to maintain traction on the surface of the roads. The presence of the salt causes what is known as freezing point depression. That is, salt helps to lower the temperature at which water will freeze.
Placing salt on icy roads helps to inhibit the crystallization of water particles into ice, even as the salt breaks down any ice that may have already formed. The same result takes place in the case of placing salt on sidewalks. The environment is suddenly altered and it is less possible for the accumulated water particles to freeze into a slippery and dangerous layer of ice.
Along with melting ice, placing salt on icy roads also helps to provide a bit of traction for the tires even as the ice is beginning to melt back into water. The grainy nature of the salt allows the treads on the tires to grip the surface of the road, thus minimizing the chances for sliding or fishtailing on the road. Of course, drivers still have to be very careful about applying the brakes while the salt is working its magic on the ice, but at least the use of salt helps to lessen the opportunity for accidents to occur.
When it comes to the need to melt ice of a street or major thoroughfare, nothing beats the use of salt. There is not even a need to use a concentrated form to do the job. In many places, plain old sodium chloride or table salt is regularly employed when there is a need to melt ice from roads and sidewalks. As an inexpensive means of maintaining the safety of persons during freezing weather, nothing can beat the use of salt to keep icy roads and sidewalks under control.