A conceptual framework for accident occurrence is developed based on the principle of the driver as an information processor. The framework underlies the development of a modeling approach that is consistent with the definition of exposure to risk as a repeated trial. Survival theory is proposed as a statistical technique that is consistent with the conceptual structure and allows the exploration of a wide range of factors that contribute to highway operating risk. This survival model of accident occurrence is developed at a disaggregate level, allowing safety researchers to broaden the scope of studies which may be limited by the use of traditional aggregate approaches. An application of the approach to motor carrier safety is discussed as are potential applications to a variety of transportation industries. Lastly, a typology of highway safety research methodologies is developed to compare the properties of four safety methodologies: laboratory experiments, on-the-road studies, multidisciplinary accident investigations, and correlational studies. The survival theory formulation has a mathematical structure that is compatible with each safety methodology, so it may facilitate the integration of findings across methodologies.