This video from what I think is a French Government website, regarding public safety really sums it up for me. This is exactly what you're up against, even if you're "JUST" riding around town.
The sad reality, my friend, is that it doesn't take much for you to get hurt. The stereotype is that you only need a half helmet for a scooter, you don't need to wear anything as a passenger, that you only need gear if you're "racing" or "riding crazy". I wish riding a motorcycle were easy, that it was ridiculously safe and that you can't *really* get hurt unless you're doing "crazy" things.
But that's not the reality, it's simply a false stereotype reinforced in Movies, Television and Mass Media. (Aren't they so helpful?)
Be informed, educate yourself, THEN make whatever choices YOU want. That's your right, but when you don't seek out the real information on your own you've just dug your own grave, so to speak.
Don't wait until you have to say 'I should've, would've, could've..."