Motorcycles would seem at first glance to be a great way to deal with shrinking supplies of gasoline (many get 70 miles per gallon). But, how dangerous are motorcycles? According to the evidence, very dangerous.
The overall death rate in 2004 from motor vehicles (cars, trucks, motorcycles, etc.) is 1.46 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, compared to 38.93 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (in 2003 when the fatality rate was about 8% lower than in 2004 for motorcycles). Thus, in 2004, it is about 28 times as likely per vehicle mile that you will die on a motorcycle as it is that you will die in a car or truck. This was a total of 4,008 motor vehicle deaths in 2004. The year 2004 experienced seventh consecutive increase in a row, bringing the total to the highest levels since 1987, the low point was 1997, when fatalities were half of common as they were ten years earlier. In contrast, overall vehicle fatality rates have deceased steadily since 1988. About 9.4% of motor vehicle fatalities involve motorcycles, almost twice the 5.0% percentage in 1997. (Injuries from motorcycle accidents make up only 2.7% of total motor vehicle injury accidents, however, indicating, as expected, that serious motorcycle accidents are several times as likely to be fatal as accidents in a larger vehicle).
Overall 48% of motorcycle riders wear approved helmets. The rate is 67% in states where this is required, and 38% in states where it is not. In states without helmet laws, about 66% of fatally injured riders were not wearing helmets. In states with helmet laws, about 15% of fatally injured riders were not wearing helmets. Overall, about 44% of those motorcycle riders who were killed in fatal accidents were not wearing helmets. This in and of itself would suggest that helmets aren't very effective. But, we also know that helmet laws do have an significant impact on fatalities. States that drop helmet laws see an increase in motorcycle fatalities of 50% to 100%. Still, even if not wearing a helmet doubles the chance of a fatal injury, you are still about ten times as likely to die riding a motorcycle with a helmet on, per vehicle mile traveled, than you are to die in a car.
About 27% of motorcycle drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 or higher, the standard for being legally drunk (a greater percentage than that found for any other vehicle). But, again, given the likely overlap between non-helmet wearing and impaired driving, even sober, helmeted motorcycle riding is far more dangerous than driving a car or truck.
Given that driving a car is already one of the most dangerous things you can do in life, my conclusion is simple. Don't ride motorcycles. I'm not sure that I would make this a law (we have to get voluntary organ donors somehow, and people do care a great deal about their personal freedom), but I do think that it might be a good idea to require vendors of motorcycles to disclose these facts.
(As an aside, measured by fatalities per 100,000 registered vehicles, passenger cars are actually about 4% safer than SUVs or pickup trucks, although vans, probably because they are more often driven by professional drivers, about about 33% safer than either of them).