A computer glitch at the company that operates most of the state's red-light cameras has led to about 17,000 tickets being voided, the judiciary office said Thursday.
Last week, the state sent letters to 17 towns that have contracts with American Traffic Solutions notifying them of the problem. ATS, based in Tempe, Arizona, had notified the state about the glitch on Aug. 10, state judiciary spokeswoman Winnie Comfort said.
The computer problems occurred between May 28 and June 30 and resulted in motorists not receiving notices of violations that had been committed before then and were being processed. Under state law, if a ticket hasn't been served within 90 days it must be dismissed, Comfort said.
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"To their credit, they let us know that there was a problem so we could get right on it," she said.
The affected towns are Jersey City, Palisades Park, Wayne Township, Linden, Rahway, Roselle Park, Union Township, East Windsor, Lawrence Township, East Brunswick, Piscataway, Woodbridge, Pohatcong, Gloucester Township, Deptford, Glassboro and Monroe Township.
The program's staunchest critic, Assemblyman Declan O'Scanlon, wrote in an email Thursday: "This wasn't 5 or 10 or even a couple of hundred instances — this total breakdown affected almost 17,000 motorists."
"These companies incessantly tout the supposed accuracy and consistency of their systems," he wrote, "when the only thing consistent about the camera company representatives is their blatant misrepresentation of what the equipment does and how accurately it does it."
An ATS spokesman said in an email Thursday that a server configuration change caused the glitch.
"Recently a technical issue was discovered that impacted a small percentage of overall red-light safety camera violations," spokesman Charles Territo said. "A server configuration change affected the ATS violation processing system and led to a delay in notices being mailed."
The red-light camera program, which began in 2009, has experienced technical problems before. In 2012, it was suspended for a month after officials determined that 63 of the cameras were not tested to ensure the yellow lights were timed in accordance with the law.
The program also has been the target of legal challenges that say the yellow lights don't give motorists enough time to put on their brakes. ATS reached a $4.2 million settlement in 2013 with nearly 500,000 motorists ticketed in New Jersey.