The increase in population constitutes a central challenge of global change. However, in developing countries, this challenge does not imply simply an increase in number of individuals, but, particularly an increase in the number in the number of those who want to partake of the benefits of modern life: better and more diversified food, more comfortable housing, more convenient transportation. While the implications of dwindling resources are becoming clear in parts of the first world, and in some parts of the developing world that lives as if they were part of the first world, this is not necessarily the case in those regions that still aspire to reach the living standards of the first world. Using the example of adjustments necessary to increased density and complexity in urban transportation, this study proposes a theoretical model to explain excuses made in the context of traffic violations. The paper closes with a reflection about a possible extension to other environmentally necessary changes in behaviour. Using a multi-method approach, three studies were conducted to investigate excuses given by drivers to justify traffic violations. The point of departure was Bandura’s Moral Disengagement Theory, which proposes four groups of justifications to account for various kinds of wrongdoing. (1) Moral justification, advantageous comparison and euphemistic language are used to justify the inappropriate behaviour as such; (2) distortion of consequences deals with the effects of the wrongful behaviour; (3) dehumanization and attribution of guilt “blame” the victim and (4) displacement, as well as diffusion of responsibility both justify the wrongful behaviour and its consequences. Three different studies investigated the extent to which this theory might be applicable to a different set of behaviours (traffic) and cultural context (Brazil). In a first study, 563 drivers answered a moral disengagement scale, based on Bandura’s theory adapted to traffic violations. In a second study, 161 traffic policemen identified the most frequently heard excuses from drivers out of a list based on the previous study. The third study analyzed 129 appeals by traffic offenders. Based on the results of the three studies, a model is proposed that describes the psychological mechanism used by drivers to justify traffic violations: (1) displacement, as well as diffusion of responsibility both present justifications by distorting the behaviour of the driver; and its consequences; (2) moral justification, advantageous comparison and euphemistic language are used to ‘reconstruct’ the circumstances under which the traffic violation took place; and (3) a novel component, the Brazilian jeitinho entered in an attempt to sensitize, and/or threaten and/ or invoke prestige vis-à-vis the authority. Given the country’s history, jeitinho is identified in the Brazilian anthropological literature, as a specific strategy, based on a mixture of deceit and flattery, to obtain whatever one wants in one’s interactions with others. The implications of the findings and the model of justifications are clear as far as traffic and transportation is concerned, in that they point to the need to develop education and enforcement actions that prioritizes offender accountability for their acts, because they almost always exclude their participation and responsibility in the violations. However, the questions raised by the study extend to other ecologically important, yet day-to-day behaviours, such as choice of travel mode, energy saving, domestic water use, waste disposal and recycling, or eating habits. Understanding the mechanisms of justifying the unjustifiable will contribute to develop effective strategies of behaviour change.