The Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) has found that the proportion of roads gritted in poor weather fluctuates wildly - from 16% to 50% - depending on the county.
A ruling in the House of Lords in September 2000 found that local councils are not legally liable for failing to salt roads, but the Audit Commission has recommended that a reasonable figure should be between 24% and 38%.
The APIL survey noted that budgetary constraints are now the main influence on levels of gritting. Frances McCarthy, president of APIL said: 'The fact that many local authorities have already made the link between salting and budgets is extremely worrying. Something has to be done to make local authorities accountable.
'People's lives are at stake here and we are really worried that, if local authorities cannot be held accountable, they may be tempted to cut corners if road safety budgets become tight.'
Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: 'With such big inconsistencies between local authorities' gritting plans there is a road safety lottery in parts of the country. We will be urging the Government to review local authorities' commitment to grit roads as a matter of urgency.'