Two train accidents were in the news today. The first involved alcohol... ethanol specifically. An Iowa Interstate Railroad train derailed 26 cars of its 131-car train near Tiskilwa, Illinois west of Chicago. Seven tank cars of ethanol burned. The company issued a press release (PDF) indicating that there were no injuries, and that one tank car is still burning. (CBC)
The second accident in the news apparently involved pot - marijuana. The Canadian Transportation Safety Board issued a report (PDF) on the March 3, 2010 collision between two trains near Golden, BC. I reported on it. The TSB report says that one westbound train was leaving the Golden yard when an eastbound train ran past a stop signal and struck the other train.
Where do the pot and the phones come in? Well, the crew on the eastbound train were reported to have been using their cellphones frequently during their trip, and one was used a minute before the collision. This is reminiscent of the 2009 Metrorail crash. Fortunately in the CP crash, noone was (initally) injured. Apparently the locomotive engineer had been in the presence of marijuana recently and was concerned that it would show up on the mandatory post-accident drug test, so he consumed 10L of water after the accident to try to dilute the results. This caused hyponetremia (water intoxication) and he was airlifted to a hospital. The drug test was inconclusive. (CBC)
I don't know the effects of pot, having never used it, but it stands to reason that you shouldn't operate heavy machinery after using it... and of course cell phone bans were already in place on Canadian Pacific prior to this accident. Don't text and drive!