2009 Dodge Challenger Long Term Road Test


2009 Dodge Challenger R/T: Headlights On With Wipers

December 14, 2009

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Something rare and strange happened this past weekend in Southern California: It rained...a lot.

Here in California, the law says you must turn on your headlights when you use your windshield wipers. And according to an AAA legal expert I asked, Daytime Running Lamps (DRLs) do no count because: 1) DRLs and are not legally defined as headlights and; 2) headlight use also turns on the taillights and side markers, which is just as crucial if being seen by other cars is the whole point.

California is by no means alone in this. Headlight use is specifically required during periods of rain or when wipers are in use in a grand total of 23 states representing 185 million people out of a possible 304 million, the total population according to the 2008 US census. In other words, 61% of you are required to turn your headlights on when it's raining during daylight hours

Furthermore, an additional 74.7 million of you must use headlights whenever weather reduces visibility to less than a certain specified distance, usually 500 or 1000 feet. The wording of these laws stops short of specifically tying headlight use to wiper use. But I'm not sure how one is supposed to measure visibility while on the move, so headlight use in rain is at least implied. Taking this view, that brings the total up to 259.9 million out of 304 million, some 85%.

So why is it that very few carmakers tie the wipers and headlights together, like our 2009 Dodge Challenger?

More after the jump...

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As you can see, "Headlamps On with Wipers" is one of the driver-selectable settings found in the Challenger's vehicle information center. If you turn this feature on and place the headlight switch in the "auto" mode, the headlights will come on in daylight after 10 seconds of wiper use. The delay is there to prevent the headlights from illuminating if one is merely cleaning the window, a type of wiper use that does not require headlights in any of the state laws I perused.

But with 61% of the car-buying public subject to a specific requirement that headlights be on with wipers (and another 24% implied by reduced-visibility language), I think all automakers should consider providing such a feature, but there aren't many who have seen the light, so to speak.

Specifically-required states as of December 2009: CA, NY, IL, FL, IN, KS, NC, MO, PA, MD, OH, SC, LA, GA, AR, CT, ME, MN, NJ, OR, RI, TN, VA = 23 states, 185.2 million (61% of US population)

Implied by visibility states: AK, CO, ID, IA, KT, MA, MI, MS, MT, NH, NM, OK, SD, TX, UT, WA, WV, WY = 18 states, 74.7 million (24% of US population)

All of the recent Chrysler products I have tested have this feature, but I'm not currently able to recall which other high-volume brands bother with it. Who among you has this type of setup on your car? What do you make of it? And is your state talking about joining the 61%?

Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16,348 miles

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The Edmunds TCO® estimated monthly insurance payment for a 2009 Dodge Challenger in VA is:

$149 per month*
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