Nate Dunbar was eight months old when a drunk driver crashed through the wall of his bedroom and pinned him under the tyre of a four-wheel-drive.

He died despite the desperate attempts of his parents, police and fire fighters to save him.

Moved by his death and sensing an opportunity to change community behaviour for the better, The West Australian approached Nate’s parents Stacy and Justin Dunbar.

After several meetings and detailed discussions, the Dunbar family and The West Australian developed a major campaign which aimed to prevent drink-driving deaths on WA roads.

Just nine weeks later, the Pledge For Nate campaign was launched, calling on readers to make a public promise to not drink and drive and to stop their friends drinking and driving.


The campaign was launched on November 30, 2013, with a high-impact front page in the paper’s biggest circulation edition The Weekend West.

Stories, photos and graphics in the news pages explained the rationale and West Weekend Magazine, which is inserted in The Weekend West, carried a 3000-word feature article.

The magazine piece was feature journalism at its most effective. It reconstructed the events of that evening in compelling detail. Through evocative story-telling, it put readers in the drunk driver’s car, alongside Stacy Dunbar as she tried to save her son, and inside the mind of police who remain deeply affected by that night.

The magazine, with a readership of 670,000, was complemented by an integrated social media and online campaign and a two-month push by the newspaper to change community behaviour.

The campaign harnessed the strength of Seven West Media’s regional newspapers, which looked at local incidents of drink driving in their communities. Their loyal readers joined the campaign, pushing for change in their towns and cities.

Meanwhile, The West Australian’s journalists investigated the impact of drink driving on the hospital system, the courts and emergency workers and told the stories of other families deeply affected by deaths on our roads.

Using its sponsorship reach and its ability to access high-profile people, The West Australian enlisted the support of top sportsmen and women, celebrities and key opinion leaders in the community.

The State Government responded, with WA Police Minister Liza Harvey holding a joint press conference with Stacy Dunbar and promising to bring forward moves to curb repeat drink drivers.

Readers flooded The West Australian with their messages of support. Almost 8000 people took the pledge and shared it with their friends, creating a community sense of responsibility for tackling drink-driving.

The results were staggering. The number of drink driving fatalities on WA roads in 2013 was down almost 48 per cent on the five-year average. The road toll was the lowest since records began in 1962. WA also shook its dubious title of having the worst road toll per capita.

Pledge For Nate had saved lives.

Ms Harvey lauded the community’s response. “There is no doubt the Pledge For Nate campaign had an effect on driver behaviour over the Christmas period,” she said.

Mrs Dunbar said: “It’s so nice to know that we are getting some positive news from such a horrible tragedy … it’s fantastic to think our little boy has made a difference.”

The independent Road Safety Council joined the praise and Stacy Dunbar was named WA Local Hero of the Year at the Australian of the Year Awards.

Mr and Mrs Dunbar continue to work with authorities to curb drink driving and save lives and The West Australian continues to find ways to make its community safer.

Article by Ben Martin – Assistant Editor, The West Australian

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