Minnesotans don’t know how to drive in the snow? Bah!

Traffic crawls into St. Paul on I-94 near Johnson Parkway on Friday morning. MnDOT camera

“I thought you guys were supposed to be good at this winter stuff,” an out-of-towner said to me late Thursday night when I dropped him off at a hotel on the Bloomington strip. It had taken us about 45 minutes to drive from Fairview Hospital, taking the deserted river roads instead of returning to the disaster on the interstate I’d been seeing all evening.

He had witnessed scores of accidents and spin-outs — none with any authorities nearby — along a stretch or two which I’d carefully navigated around in one of the ways I look for interesting people and ideas to blog about — driving for a ride-share service.

Apparently, he’s flying off to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Friday armed with a story about how Minnesotans, except for one heck of a ride-share driver, don’t know how to drive in the snow.

That’s too bad, because that’s not the story of what happened last night; quite the opposite actually.

I hit all the major thoroughfares and a lot of the minor ones — 35W, 494/694, Hennepin Avenue, 94, 100, 394, Excelsior Blvd., Lyndale, etc — and it wasn’t until close to 11 p.m. I spied my first MnDOT salt trucks/plows — over the Wakota Bridge. That was one more than any city or county equipment the entire evening.

Hennepin County didn’t dispatch help until 2 a.m. Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

Surprisingly, the takeaway last night is, aside from the usual goof (I’m looking at you, young driver in Uptown who slowed and then sped through the red light on into the oncoming path of a car that barely skidded to a halt in time after you got flustered and decided to just stop in the middle of your illegal turn), the drivers were pretty skillful on roads that were mostly clear of those responsible for clearing and treating them.

If there was a crawl on the interstate, it was often because people were driving slow — not too slow — given the glare ice they were on, fully matching their driving to the road conditions, just as MnDOT and the State Patrol lecture us about constantly. They left lots of room between them and the car in front. Why, I’d bet they even had their hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel.

That’s all more nuance, perhaps, than the warm folks at home, watching things unfold on the TV news, can understand, but it’s an underreported reality nonetheless. We’re actually pretty good at this.

True, there are certain things you can’t do in conditions like last night that people’s habits make them do. The person in the SUV on 35E near Maryland Avenue, who decided to change lanes on short notice, hitting the accelerator to do so, with traffic approaching in the other lane, found out how the law of physics works the hard way.

But for the most part, what drivers last night accomplished was pretty impressive, though the people of Riyadh will never learn of it.

The people doing the driving weren’t lying about what was happening.

By mid-evening, MnDOT was assuring Twitter it was out, apparently as usual, even if people weren’t seeing any proof.

The good news is we’ve gotten the first “storm” out of our system now and we can get on with winter.

The drivers of Minnesota have shown they’re ready for it. Last night, they did their part to prove it.