The holidays are upon us. Let's not all hit the road at once.

The Auto Club of Southern California says a whopping 7.6 million Southern Californians are planning to head out of town between tomorrow and Jan. 3. That's nearly half the population.

That's “more Southern Californians than ever,” and “the largest number of local holiday travelers this century,” the AAA said in a statement.

Nearly nine out of 10 travelers will exit by car, the AAA says. 

Why the sudden urge to freeway merge? Gas prices are relatively low. And the economy is improving, with many of you taking new cars to grandmother's house.

“For some, it’s their biggest trip of the year and one they have planned for a long time,” says Filomena Andre, the Auto Club’s vice president for travel products and services. “We expect that lower gas prices will also spur some last-minute getaways to driving destinations.”

However, fuel in Greater Los Angeles isn't as low as it could be. At about $2.747 per gallon, it's 11 cents lower than last year but much more expensive than it is in the rest of the nation, AAA reports.

“While drivers in the rest of the U.S. are continuing to see the effects of the lower oil prices at the pump, Southern California gas supplies continue to be limited by the Torrance refinery outage that began in February,” says Auto Club spokesman Jeffrey Spring. “Those heading out of town will see prices under $2 a gallon in Arizona and well under $2.50 a gallon in Washington and Oregon.”

Comparison-shopping site says local prices have actually gone up 10.2 cents per gallon in the last week. The national average is less than $2.

“The Grinch turned up in California, replacing price declines with price spikes,” said Gregg Laskoski, a senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. “California's hikes tie directly to issues at two refineries with combined capacity exceeding 400,000 barrels per day. Consequently, California's average price has climbed by 8 cents per gallon while the rest of the country for the most part sees declines.”

Be safe. And remember, cops are on the lookout for drunk drivers in a big way this time of year.

LA Weekly