A mother, on the school run with her 18-month-old daughter, was left stunned when an impatient motorist tail-gated her then tried to punch her when she pulled over.

On November 13 last year, the woman - who did not want to be named for fear of retribution - was waiting to pull out of Barr St into Kaikorai Valley Rd after dropping her son off at school.

After waiting at the busy intersection for a couple of minutes, the driver behind her became impatient.

"She started tooting her horn and putting her arm out the window," the victim said.

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Stephanie Alice Gorman, 27, the driver in the car behind the woman, was no calmer when the traffic cleared and they pulled out.

Gorman tail-gated the woman's car and the woman touched her brakes to have her back off.

"She hit my tow bar instantly," the victim said. "She must have been centimetres from the back of my car."

When she pulled over at the side of the road, Gorman passed so closely that her wing mirror was forced back.

"You were so angry and had lost all self-control," Judge Kevin Phillips told Gorman in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

The pair eventually stopped outside a petrol station and Gorman immediately confronted the other driver.

The defendant made her violent intentions clear: "I'm going to smack you," she said.

"I copped a whole heap of abuse then she went to punch me in the face," the victim told the Otago Daily Times.

"She was about 2cm from my face but I saw it coming and quickly threw myself out of the way.

"At that point my daughter started screaming her head off.

"I've experienced normal road rage ... but you don't expect somebody to go to that extent, especially around a school."

Judge Phillips was similarly unimpressed.

"It is of alarm and concern these things could happen on Dunedin streets," he said.

It was Gorman's first conviction for violence and defence counsel John Westgate stressed his client had done well in completing a previous sentence she had received for drug dealing.

However, Judge Phillips criticised her attitude and threatened to have her remanded in custody when she shook her head as he recounted the facts during yesterday's proceedings.

"This was road rage at the higher end of the scale," he said.

"The surrounding circumstances were just appalling."

Gorman was sentenced to 150 hours' community work and banned from driving for four months.