Are the motorcycle escorts for funerals "real" police? They look like police vehicles, and they use lights and sirens, but when you look closer, they don't bear the name of any particular jurisdiction. Isn't impersonating an officer illegal? —Steve C.

What you've stumbled upon here, Steve, is an excellent real-life example of Dr. Know's First Maxim: If you have to think about whether or not it's a scam, it's probably a scam.

As scams go, mind you, this one is fairly benign—it's not as though these uniformed riders, who are typically employees of the same limo company or mortuary services firm that supplied the hearse, are taking advantage of their resemblance to real cops to extort bribes from drug dealers or smuggle children into slavery. (That we know of.)

Still, it's pretty clear from the black-and-white paint job, complete with a gold seven-pointed star, and the vaguely tactical uniform that these guys are perfectly happy to let you conclude they're real cops and defer to them accordingly.

In fairness, funeral escort vehicles do have legal status above that of ordinary vehicles, which they mostly use to halt cross traffic at intersections so the entire funeral procession can pass through unbroken. There's a special carve-out in Oregon law allowing them to use flashing red (though not blue) lights, and you are legally obliged to obey their directions as though they were real traffic cops.

Additionally, Oregon Revised Statutes 811.812 provides that "any person or vehicle participating in a funeral procession shall be allowed to pass free through all tollgates, tunnels, toll bridges and ferries." This is relevant, since Oregon is now considering a plan to collect tolls on local freeways.

Moreover, ORS 801.288 (3) defines a funeral procession as "two or more vehicles…accompanying the body or cremated remains of a deceased person." Nowhere does it say you have to be on your way to the cemetery.

Are you pondering what I'm pondering? I'm no lawyer, but it certainly appears that an urn of Grandma's ashes should, if carried in a convoy-type formation, be sufficient to get you out of paying any and all tolls indefinitely. You're welcome.