Prolonged wakefulness greatly decreases nocturnal driving performance. The development of in-car countermeasures is a future challenge to prevent sleep-related accidents. The aim of this study is to determine whether continuous exposure to monochromatic light in the short wavelengths (blue light), placed on the dashboard, improves night-time driving performance. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study, 48 healthy male participants (aged 20-50 years) drove 400 km (250 miles) on motorway during night-time. They randomly and consecutively received either continuous blue light exposure (GOLite, Philips, 468 nm) during driving or 2*200 mg of caffeine or placebo of caffeine before and during the break. Treatments were separated by at least 1 week. The outcomes were number of inappropriate line crossings (ILC) and mean standard deviation of the lateral position (SDLP). Eight participants (17%) complained about dazzle during blue light exposure and were removed from the analysis. Results from the 40 remaining participants (mean age ± SD: 32.9±11.1) showed that countermeasures reduced the number of inappropriate line crossings (ILC) (F(2,91.11) = 6.64; p<0.05). Indeed, ILC were lower with coffee (12.51 [95% CI, 5.86 to 19.66], p = 0.001) and blue light (14.58 [CI, 8.75 to 22.58], p = 0.003) than with placebo (26.42 [CI, 19.90 to 33.71]). Similar results were found for SDLP. Treatments did not modify the quality, quantity and timing of 3 subsequent nocturnal sleep episodes. Despite a lesser tolerance, a non-inferior efficacy of continuous nocturnal blue light exposure compared with caffeine suggests that this in-car countermeasure, used occasionally, could be used to fight nocturnal sleepiness at the wheel in blue light-tolerant drivers, whatever their age. More studies are needed to determine the reproducibility of data and to verify if it can be generalized to women.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01070004.