The number of U.S. high school students who drink and drive dropped by more than half in two decades, federal health officials said Tuesday.
Officials said that drinking and driving among U.S. teens dropped by 54 percent from 1991 to 2011, according to the latest findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC found that in 2011, 10.3 percent of high school students 16 and older reported drinking and driving in the previous 30 days, compared to 33.2 percent in 1991, according to an early release of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
"There is good news in some of the data here," CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden said in a press conference Tuesday.
"We've seen really good progress," he added. "We're moving in the right direction, but we need to keep up the momentum."
Federal officials credited stricter laws against drunken driving and restrictions on teen driving privileges, like limiting hours teenagers can legally drive at night, to the drop.
However, one in 10, or nearly 1 million high school students, reported driving after drinking alcohol, the report showed.
"Drinking and driving is risky for any driver, but especially for young teens," Frieden said. "Young drivers are 17 times more likely to die in a crash when they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 than when they have not been drinking."
Car crashes are still the leading cause of death for teens.
"There are more than 2,000 teens aged 16 to 19 killed on the road each year, and many of those deaths are alcohol-related," Frieden said, adding that one in five teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010 had alcohol in their system.
Researchers analyzed risk behavior data collected from thousands of high school students through the national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys from 1991 to 2011, which consisted of answers given by students in grades 9 through 12 who were asked to complete voluntary and anonymous self-administered questionnaires.
Other significant findings in the study show that male students were more likely to drink and drive at 11.7 percent compared to female students at 8.8 percent.
Hispanic and White students were significantly more likely to drink and drive compared to African-American students, with 11.5 percent of Hispanic, 10.6 percent of White students admitting to drinking and driving within the last 30 days compared to 6.6 percent of African American students admitting the same.
Researchers said that 7.2 percent of 16-year-olds reported drinking and driving and 11.5 percent of 17-year-olds reported the same.
The results from the report showed that 84.5 percent of students who reported drinking and driving also reported binge drinking or consuming five or more drinks in a row.
Federal officials stress that parents were essential in ensuring that the rates of teen drinking and driving continue to drop.
"Children see how their parents drive from a young age and model that behavior," he said. "Parents are a key part of the equation here."